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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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