“New single from who?”. Yea hopefully reading the title of this music review and trying to figure out the peculiar band name featured here that you most likely have never heard of peaks the better side of your curiosity and draws you to the excitement of possibly discovering a rad new band that nobody else is aware of. Astral Cloud Ashes could be that band for you, and their new single “Moonphase Bloom” is actually worth a few listens.
Astral Cloud Ashes is a rather small operation, an unsigned band consisting primarily of two permanent band members: Antony Walker (lead vocals, writer, composer), and Jason Neil (backing vocals, rhythm guitar), with Antony Walker being the front man. They also have a drummer that’ll be featured on their upcoming album on a few tracks, but Walker takes care of most of the percussion. So it’s almost like this charismatic solo act which is really cool and unique in a respectable kind of way.
Walker started the undertaking in January of 2016 in Jersey, Channel Islands (Western Europe), and in April of that year, Astral Cloud Ashes made its first big headlining on BBC 6music, which is a really cool digital radio that features new talent. Their debut album dropped July 11th 2016, a year before the release of “Moonphase Bloom”, the first of their next album to be released this year with the same name.
Something that can be seen as interesting about this collaboration is that it’s more of a studio project than a tangible band that performs live. While most music fans do enjoy live performances, something really cool about this solo act/ duo is that their focus in the studio makes them susceptible to growth in their musical variety and quality, particularly because, as lead man Antony Walker explains, he doesn’t like to create music in his own studio, or in any one studio in particular: “There are so many dedicated and truly talented people mixing in their own studios now. I feel compelled to work with as many different engineers as possible, I try not to work with any one person for more than one or two songs and just learn whatever I can along the way.”
See I love this philosophy. Because, even though an artist has their own style and artistic brand and way of expressing that, this way of thinking acknowledges that other artists have something to offer as well, even if it’s just as someone outside looking in on a project that can see ways to improve it.
This philosophy of self-surrounding and gaining from other artists to improve and vary the artistic product for good can add a variety of flavor to a musician’s ensemble. Antony allows this without compromising his own sound too much. So the questions therefore, as they are in all of the reviews, become: How creative is the sound? How relatively talented is the artist? And are they consistent with what their fans enjoy about their music?
ANALYSIS- WHAT’S THEIR SOUND?
Astral Cloud Ashes can mostly be described as Neo-Punk Emo, within the more broadened Indie/Alternative Rock genre. This can sound pretentious and even forced at times, but for the most part the music Walker creates in all of his collaborations can be playfully charming and sincere; the slower paced songs feeling more sincere, but sometimes feigned, and the faster songs (like “Moonphase Beam”) having a more fluid, deliberately care-free feel to them. Walker says primary influences for his band are mainly Now Now, Tubelord, The Cure, Pavement, The Pixies and Eels, and it shows.
As far as creativity, I can’t say that this music is terribly different than that of other similar artists within the genre, but it is definitely some of the most listenable, whether you’re a fan of the genre or not. The style is very appealing with almost an innocence to it that makes you feel young and curious. The lyrics aren’t the deepest in the world, but they are very meaningful for the most part if you ever get around to listening to them. It’s fun, catchy, charming, sometimes fierce and driving, but once again, not extremely unique. I could think of a hand full of bands with a similar sound as I listened to their music.
Antony Walker’s talent is expressed in the music he composes, and the way he sings his lyrics to add to the musical compositions. His voice isn’t unique or beautiful but I don’t think that’s the point. The most important thing is that it doesn’t take away from the musical experience, but rather, leavens it quite nicely.
When it comes to consistency, it’s hard to judge being that the band has only one album and a single, but so far, again, Walker stays true to the type of music he feels that he’s good at making. That poppy, yet raw, fluid, innocent sound seems to remain for the most part throughout existing tracks.
Astral Cloud Ashes’ newest single, “Moonphase Bloom”, was made with musical engineer James Elliot Field (Tubelord, Colour, Tangled Hair, Tall Ships) in Devon (England), March of this year. Walker says of James, “[He] is someone I’ve been aware of for a while because he mixed/produced most of Tubelord’s (math rock from UK who split in 2012) releases. Tubelord were a band that is still a massive influence on me, and having the opportunity to work with James was rewarding and informative, he understands the sound I’m going for.” James also gets credit for some backup vocals on the track. The song was mastered by Tim Turan.
While it is highly recommended that you check out the first album of Walker’s band, “Moonphase Bloom” really does capture the essence of what the band tries to accomplish: that lymphatic, innocent, charming, yet punching, punk rock sound with even hints of math rock laced throughout.
The lyrics of the song are overshadowed by the music, which is usually the case here, but they are actually quite relatable (the meaning is up for personal interpretation, but it’s definitely got something to do with love, nothing new). I personally like the way Walker uses vocals to add to the song itself. The way it’s sung and the way the backing vocals are utilized are melodic and dynamic and adds catchy variety to the song’s flow.
If you like upbeat Emo-Punk Rock that will actually kind of make you want to dance, “Moonphase Beam” is definitely your song. If you like Neo-Punk Rock in general, I’d recommend the band to you. Otherwise, you could find yourself feeling the music out to be forced and amateurish. But if you like bands like Modern Baseball, The Pixies, At the Drive In, Now Now, Sorority Noise, or even Sea In The Sky or From Indian Lakes, Astral Cloud Ashes is your cup of hopping punk tea. If so, please check out the links below.
Twitter: https://twitter.com/AstralCloudAsh (@AstralCloudAsh)
(All artwork by Alexey Chistikov)