Astral Cloud Ashes – Too Close to the Noise Floor

TCTTNF album cover

Well, there’s nothing wrong with a bit of alternative space rock. What confuses this journalist is just what the hell ‘Shoegaze’ music is. I know there are many genres of music, and there will always be several I will have never heard of…but I can’t begin to think just what ‘Shoegaze’ describes, as a genre. It makes me think of an off-the-cuff joke: How many hipsters does it take to get mad at someone for not knowing what ‘Shoegaze’ music is? All of them, because everyone should be cool enough to be so unique…

My confusion, ignorance, and annoyance by seemingly nonsensical music genres aside, there is some great, spacey alternative rock coming out of Jersey in the form of Astral Cloud Ashes – the alias of one Antony Walker (and his backing vocalist, Jason Neil). Their debut album ‘Too Close to the Noise Floor‘, released this past Summer, has been making waves in the U.K. (where it was mixed and mastered).

promo 4 (antony)The spaced out, upbeat feel of the album certainly makes room for many to enjoy the feel good vibes inherent in the music, regardless of the relatively melancholic vocals. There is a heartfelt honesty spoken through the lyrics, which is unfortunately, occasionally masked by both the vocal effects as well as the guitar distortion. I would very much love to know the full stories of each of the tracks, but there are several songs I simply miss moments of. For those songs that do fully come across, through the Shure 440′s I wear at present, great kudos. But for those I miss, one must ponder if having four engineers, in addition to Walker himself credited for the mix, might play into the muddling of what could otherwise be munificent music.

It must be said to be a damned good thing that the guitar work is quite tight. If it were not…well it would be awful to both not understand all of the lyrics, as well as not enjoy the guitar.

promo 5 (sketch-idea)That all being said ‘Flashback‘ is perhaps one of my personal favourites on the entire album because, while mostly spoken, the lyrics are understood, and the music is equally as crystal. A proper mix should be balanced to allow for the enjoyment of composition of the music and comprehension of the lyrics. This song should have been the template through which the engineers mixed the remainder of the album. There is a bit of vocal suppression towards the end of the song, but by and large, this track is solid, and sweet.

The composition of each song is certainly unique, and respectively more complex than may initially come across at first listen. The nuance of certain guitar and bass runs, as well as the alternating dynamic of the drumming (especially by Max Saidi on ‘Avant Blah!‘) really colours the album with a mirthfully melancholic sound; making the listener feel good in spite of the seeming sadness inherent.

The one track that perhaps best exemplifies this colouring is ‘Housing In A Bubble‘, though the entire album is likewise coloured, to be sure. There is something wonderful to be said of music that can simultaneously make one feel troubled and elated. It is a sorrowfully beautiful feeling that all should endeavour to experience at one time or another. Able to feel the poles of emotion in one song, or one album really does say something to the earnestness of the musician peddling such sounds.

In spite of the effects, unbalanced mix, and silly proposed genre, Astral Cloud Ashes has indeed a very unique and listen-worthy piece of work in ‘Too Close to the Noise Floor‘. To check out the album, head on over HERE.