Robert Ashley - Automatic Writing
Finally back in print and in our racks having been imported from the US, Robert Ashley's near-inscrutable minimal masterpiece Automatic Writing is here to remind us of the value in aiming high. Ashley is best known around these parts for his involvement with the Blue Gene Tyranny ensemble, and his second solo album Private Parts, which was released around the same time as the BGT debut, is a personal favourite for the way it acted as a clear counterpoint to Out of the Blue existential closer, 'A Letter From Home'. Automatic Writing is a different kind of affair. The vocal contributions are manipulated and buried, pushed underneath and within the music so as to become a textual part of it, as if inverting that formalist (pop?) idea of music to act in service to the voice. The two tracks, which run to around 40 minutes, move slowly and quietly, subtly increasing in volume and density as they progress. So subtle in fact are these shifts that they require devout attention, demanding the listener lean in, rewarding patience and understanding. Automatic Writing is high minded in the sense that it assumes its audience intelligent and that grand ideas can be expressed quietly. Weird one, but I’m reminded of an anecdote concerning former Spurs player Dimitar Berbatov. After a game had finished, he approached a particularly vocal team mate who had been screaming at him throughout the game to pass, and offered some sage advice: "you don't need to shout. I know where you are". Automatic Writing is possessed of a similar vision, and unhurried genius. Ridiculous I know, but that’s how my mind works.
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