Asthmatic Astronaut: Back to earth, washed away

Extended review of the new album by This Is Not Pop boss Asthmatic Astronaut

Revel highlights a very special album this week, our favourite sonic rocketeer Gareth Bury, aka beatmaker/producer Asthmatic Astronaut has released the artful electronic opus Washed Away, an inventive album that presents twelve compositions that are experimental in tone, pushing the boundaries of cinematic, instrumental hip-hop in their structure, tempo and mood.

A hidden gem that was created years ago, but shelved due to the unfurling of life events and a shift in Gareth’s creative perspective, Washed Away is a return to the creative process, and an elegiac love letter to beat production as a way of life. 

Bury found himself digging deep in order to find and acknowledge the essence of the compositions. His ever-evolving creative flow was augmented by the collaborative expertise and vision of audio engineer Ben Robb at Roxborough Studio (some might recognise him as the drummer from Bury’s band dust, or cult post-rock cherubs TOKAMAK).

Founder of boutique, cassette-focused label This Is Not Pop and co-founder of Scottish music collective Black Lantern Clan, and the production lynchpin behind legendary live rap crews Underling and CHURCH OF WHEN THE SHIT HITS THE FAN, Bury’s journey in Scottish music has been long, and at times complex. 

The aptly titled album Washed Away feels like a cleansing. To release it, Bury had to do away with any apprehension or frustration with the music industry, and the difficulties he faced trying to find a label to release the album once it was finally finished. This process, while frustrating, proved empowering. Bury’s resourceful thinking led him to set up This Is Not Pop, and once again harness the power to gain control over his own creative output. Washed Away is the product of that process, and in some ways it is a deeply-felt instrumental reflection on modern music and the role of the creator.

This is beatmaking as high-concept sonic sculpture…

Asthmatic Astronaut delivers intoxicating arrangements that gush with inventive instrumental surprises. His vast back catalogue is packed with moments of brilliance, but here he delivers sonic ideas with an impulsive flare, experimenting acrobatically with the structural flow of his compositions. 

There is a magnificent melodic fluidity, never losing the immediacy of each synth-jamming groove. Soaring patterns of interlocked melody are as infectious as they are harmonious. He creates strains of sporadic tension, occasionally lurching into the kinds of organic, percussive beats that shape-shift and tumble like sublime jazz solos. This is beatmaking as high-concept sonic sculpture.

Perhaps these sounds could be an expression of the intensity of change, an admission of how little control we have over events in our lives. A celebration of rhythm, disharmony, melody and raw, head-nodding beats, Washed Away does indeed feel driven by the prodigious tidal force of ocean waves. 

While he draws on no one producer’s sound, Asthmatic Astronaut has created his own unique reading of the Wave genre, lending it something deeper, more organic; in some way more authentic. It feels like he uses the electronics in an impressionistic way. His synth lines are more real, his beats in synchronization with the blood that courses through his veins.

Opener Waves sets the mood with great depth, with a hollowed-out synth bassline accompanied by an exhilarating lead melody that slowly crescendoes, full of anticipation and deeply resonant. It’s a moving, ethereal opener, channeling some of the scale and drama of peak-time Pink Floyd.

The more mechanical-sounding Back From The Future has notes of Squarepusher’s scribbled, sporadic tempos. Energy just bounces through the speakers, with a sinuous bass chopped and spliced around a clever structure. Fusing elements of wave with acid undertones, while channeling some of the energy of drum and bass, it’s a technical masterclass.

There is a magnificent earthiness to the bass synth tones in tracks such as Tranquil In The Middle, which delivers bright, crisp synths that tingle and burn with a delicate feather-touch melody, evoking sunlight streaming through tinted glass. 

The infectious That Boom Zap feels like it might be paying a small homage to early 90s EBM, which is a deep cut into some truly engaging retro electronics. Throughout, mercurial flourishes like this display Bury’s deep musical knowledge and passion. 

Our favourite track here at Revel is Must Change Situation, a melodic and uplifting track with a gentle strut in its tempo, and an almost poetic sensibility in its structure. Like the album as a whole, its beautiful atmosphere lingers, like a fond memory that keeps being replayed in the mind’s eye.     

These tracks offer depth enough for serious contemplation, rather than a simple sonic impression. Pick up on the many tones and influences of Asthmatic Astronaut’s music for yourselves, and you’ll find yourself setting out on a very special journey.    


Washed Away is out now.

Author: Miff Morris

In many senses, I am still discovering myself through the complex tapestry in which life continues to weave, gaining unique physical experience in order to aid the progression of my precious spirit, this will continue for the rest of my fated days and my understanding of who I am shall be determined through how I learn to react, act and adapt towards the circumstances I face. I do sincerely hope the span of this life is enough to fully come to terms with the potential of my unique existence, through deep-rooted understanding, compassion, and love, and that I may fully acknowledge the absolute full potential of my existence through the network of others. Thus far the core of my being has learned through unique experience and individual perspective that I am most certainly a creative soul who takes solace in the truth & liberty of artistic expression. Freedom lays behind the eyes within the evocative realm of one's imagination, transforming originality through individual perspective, this is when my art becomes yours. Inspiring, motivating different modes of expression to overall influence and shape a better world, to help elevate to a higher consciousness. We are part of the great web of life and in this way each and every one of us are interconnected, to create a major shift in consciousness. We must wholeheartedly start to believe in what can be created for the greater good of this world, in my view it is most certainly the power of thought and intention which connect us, no matter how near or how far. Being understood has always been of paramount importance to me, self-expression is something I have been aware of from a very young age. From my point of view, artistic expression has always been the most liberating and uniting mode. When I am not caught up in life's cogs I love to write poetry, short stories, and shoot photographs. I adore and feed off music, so I highly enjoy capturing the live music scene in the city of Glasgow, Scotland. I also enjoy writing for Uk Entertainments website, Louder than War, as well as run my own music blog www.Revel, Amalgamating my love of music, writing, as well as photographic expression (Music, Landscape, Street, Wedding), which gives me a great sense of creative release, therefore forging a strong sense of purpose in the way of documenting life's remarkable moments. I find working with creatives within the music industry is wholly inspiring even though at times it can be quite challenging, after all, the greatest realizations and lessons learned are born out of challenges. I figured, seeing as I have a platform for my music reviews, interviews and photography I thought it would be time to create a platform for my creative writing and poetry.....It takes courage to expose oneself through the intimacy of poetry, However, that is how we truly unite and grow in compassion and understanding of each other's true essence. I am a deep thinker, I understand the power of words and their meanings. I also understand how empowering artistic expression can be. There is a raw truth buried within each original idea combined with a power to help change the world. Artistic expression is forever transforming through interpretation, that is what I mean when I say "When My Art Becomes Yours" My philosophy is to understand more, in order to love more....... Love ~M~

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