Plumbiferous Media

Ashes Grammar – A Sunny Day in Glasgow

Sep 17th 2009
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Ashes Grammar - A Sunny Day in GlasgowA Sunny Day in Glasgow
Ashes Grammar
Score: 71

Ashes Grammar is the second full-length release by A Sunny Day in Glasgow. The band, started by Ever Nalens and Ben Daniels, the former of whom later left, has been producing dreamy, electronic-heavy music since 2006. Their latest release, though far from perfect, is a strong album, filled (perhaps overflowing) with interesting fusions of sounds that bear the distinct mark of A Sunny Day in Glasgow.

To some extent, Ashes Grammar moves away from the minimalism of A Sunny Day in Glasgow’s first album, Scribble Mural Comic Journal, instead tending to make more concrete changes during tracks. This produces a positive effect in “Failure,” which introduces strong percussion into the album, but later shifts to a significantly lighter sound, as well as “Starting at a Disadvantage,” which moves between various string instruments unseen on other parts of the album. Unfortunately, negative effects are also present. “The White Witch” has so many competing and changing elements that it ends up becoming a cluttered mess.

The vocal element of Ashes Grammar is perfectly suited to the dreamy aesthetic of A Sunny Day in Glasgow’s music. Stripped down to their very essence, the voices of twin sisters Robin and Lauren Daniels interweave with the resounding echo of the instrumentals. Humming with power, the vocals are often enshrouded by the ambiance that lends Ashes Grammar its electric feel, contributing to the dreamlike sound that fills the album.

A Sunny Day in Glasgow’s vocal approach differs greatly between tracks – on some tracks, like “Failure,” the vocals are a deeply entombed influence filling the edges and pockets of the music, while on later tracks such as “Passionate Introverts (Dinosaurs)” the vocals take a more active role, flowing along the top layers of the instrumental cloud. On instrumental tracks, such as “West Philly Vocoder,” more concrete instrumentals take the place of the vocals, further demonstrating the versatility of A Sunny Day in Glasgow.

Due to the subdued style of the vocals, the majority of the lyrics fall just beyond unascertainable. However, thanks to the abstract nature of A Sunny Day in Glasgow’s music, this isn’t quite a flaw. In fact, the muted, often barely intelligible lyrics, do just as much as they would if they had been more clear. And when the lyrics do break through though, they’re certainly interesting, especially the musings about dinosaurs on “Passionate Introverts.”

Ashes Grammar is a long album. Topping an hour and with 22 tracks, Ashes Grammar leaves as much room for mistakes as brilliance. And while some tracks simply clog Ashes Grammar with sameness, others, like the title track and its successor, “Ashes Maths,” add dullness to the album. Still more problematically, A Sunny Day In Glasgow included a few tracks like “Canalfish,” which, through a shrill, unwavering electronic half-melody, manages to be somewhat irritating.

Ashes Grammar is fundamentally a strong album. A Sunny Day in Glasgow has taken the experimentation and minimalism of its debut album and distilled them into the creativity that fills their newest album. The subtle treatment of the vocals, the versatility and innovation of the instrumentals, and the overall artistry of the sound combine quite successfully to create an interesting album. However, occasional missteps and a serious problem with lengthiness prevent the album from being excellent, instead forcing it to remain merely good.

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