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Ashley, Dwight: Ataxia

Categorization remains an imperative for some people, despite the fact that existing categories continue to decline in their ability to actually inform anyone of much of anything. What's needed is an adjustment in both attitude and expectations: way too much is made out of the adolescent need to figure out what to call it?

Still, the back cover of Dwight Ashley's Ataxia provides some earnest guidance, suggesting that the title should "File Under Electronic: experimental ambient; Classical: electronic / avant garde / minimalist music". Sadly, since Tower Records has recently declared itself finally and truly broke, the "Electronic: experimental ambient; Classical: electronic / avant garde / minimalist music" section may very well disappear from retail environments everywhere, forever.

But that shouldn't stop you from finding this recording. That Mr. Ashley's work largely refuses categorization is, of course, an aspect of its strength and its value to those actually interested in the way in which ideas that were initiated over the last few decades continue to filter into the present day, raising the bar for composers who remain engaged in music as a form capable of expressing much more than is now commonly asked of it.

Ataxia's principal accomplishment is in favoring form over formlessness. Across twelve pieces Ashley sensibly and meaningfully links a wealth of compositional forms that seamlessly embrace aspects of phonography, pure electronic and process techniques along with orchestral inflections -- in the case of "Circus of Sharp Toys", purely orchestral in instrumentation -- that readily recall but do not imitate Stockhausen, Ligeti, Bryars, Hovhaness and Kernis.

Most of Ataxia was written in New Orleans, just days before Hurricane Katrina made landfall and exposed FEMA as the Crony Reward Organization it is. And so the effect of what amounts to the U.S. federal government's waterboarding of an entire population leaves this music with a threatening and pelagic emotional charge. Ataxia traverses the stages within and between unstable surrounds which occasionally reach the terra firma of literal structure. The compositions ultimately favor an entropic path of unembellished dissolution and collapse. It's important to note the absence of any and every trace of sentimental melodrama. These pieces achieve an understated and implicit emotional charge that can only derive from authentic experience. Free of the cliché associative nonsense so heavily favored by practitioners of hyperbolic and romantic sonic mush, Ashley's allusions are evocative enough to extend beyond the specific and brush up against the universal. Ataxia accomplishes what will finally be categorized by anyone with open ears as that most illusive thing -- genuine, capital "M" Music.

Track Listing
1) Impervious
2) When the Waters Came
3) Black Swamp, Bright Sun
4) Circus of Sharp Toys
5) Dance of the Wobbler
6) As We Became Complacent
7) Our Dark Shallow Spoil
8) Holiday from Complexity
9) Withdrawal of the Many
10) Isle of Inevitability
11) Days into Years
12) Ataxia

Added: October 31st 2006
Reviewer: Kerry Leimer
Related Link: More Information
Hits: 3900
Language: english

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