When one hears the statement “prolific artist” you can almost hear a collective groan from the audience. Prolific, you see, doesn’t always translate to quality. I can spout off a random list of artists that release way too much material – for every album that I enjoy, there are 2 to 3 that I’d rather have skipped (like a fool, I usually pick up everything). It’s also a curious time in musical history – downloads were seen as the savior of the physical medium, yet streaming services have zapped some of that thunder. What’s an artist to do? If you are Richard Haswell from Edinburgh, Scotland – you continue to release stunning music at a healthy clip while maintaining a tight rein on quality control.
Asteroids is somewhere around Haswell’s 22nd release or so since the mid 90’s. Sounds like an intimidating figure, and it kind of is to be honest. Fortunately you don’t need to feel stressed out about that. Eight songs of stunning musicianship that flirt with several different genres and styles. Folk styled songs sit comfortably up against Bowie inspired electronic soundscapes (think the Berlin trilogy). I even hear a bit of a Smashing Pumpkins influence on a few tracks (and really heavily on one track, which I’ll get to in just a bit). The album isn’t just a mish-mash of influences – it takes all of these colliding forces and spins it into its own unique blend. A menagerie of brilliance, Asteroids is an album that grows in stature with each listen.
this is permanent damage (album highlights)
Jarvick-13 has a title straight out of a science fiction movie and starts the album off on a strong note. Bowie-esque vocals over top of a driving 90’s guitar drone sets the stage for the rest of the record by throwing a few different influences & styles into the mix. The Undreamed Of pays homage to 1979 by The Smashing Pumpkins. The introduction to the tune sounds very similar to the hit song by the ‘Pumpkins before moving into dreamier territory. The phrase / lyric that sticks out is the way he pronounces “It’s the great unknown!”. The Distance Between You and I is a foreboding title of a song and in this instance the music matches the melancholy. Spooky sound f/x for the 1st minute or so before a galloping bass line enters the mix. Soft sung vocals are quite effective as the song builds to a white noise crescendo of guitar noise whilst never losing sense of melody. That’d be the shoegazing influence showings its face, take note. The Thinner the Ice is about as perfect of a closing track as you’d want on an album. Atmospheric and conveying emotion with each word, it is nothing short of stunning. (think about how Street Spirit closed out The Bends by everyone’s favorite underground mainstream act, Radiohead). Strummed acoustic guitar, assorted synths & sound f/x, and beautiful vocals. Key lyrics: “For to resist I have no will / So let these creatures have their fill / So no more covert disguises / No unwelcome surprises”
An essential release of 2013 and one that belongs in your collection. The album is available from the major digital retailers (Amazon, Itunes). You can find out more about Richard Haswell at his home on the world wide web – http://www.richardhaswell.co.uk/
Verdict: Space Pop Madness
For Fans of: David Bowie, Nick Cave, Smashing Pumpkins, Peter Gabriel, Babybird
- The Undreamed Of
- Routinely Armed
- One More House From Happiness
- The Distance Between You and I
- The Water Poet
- The Thinner The Ice