By: Sam Birkett
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Released on June 27, 2015 via Independent
Second Son, Seventh Sky is the debut of Atlanta ‘prog-punk-electronoise’ duo Bold Ashes. It compiles tracks the band have been releasing steadily throughout the past year, and it’s a noised-out statement of intent that should prick up weird ears everywhere.
Where Bold Ashes impress most is at their most frenetic, when drums lurch wildly but always stay just on the right side of the beat, and synths and effects-drenched bass churn maniacally. This mode has two distinct incarnations at either end of the record: on standout ‘Hilt’ and rejuvenator ‘OCD.’
To use archaic and completely unrelated terms, ‘Hilt’ is the closest thing here to a lead single. I mean that not to portray it as the one token accessible track of the record, but as the best expression of the album’s spirit. It is at times chaotic, at others pensive; it grooves and it grates; it is both meandering and purposeful. There is precious little on Second Sun that is not encapsulated in ‘Hilt,’ but instead of being overburdened the track is joyous in its freedom to roam.
At no point do the band ever bore or completely disappoint, but there are moments where a more laid-back style is indulged just a little too much, and the band sink into a haze that lacks the character that marks out their finer tracks. The main culprit of this is ‘The Great Discarrier,’ whose ambient stroll is the lacklustre foil to ‘Hilt’s deranged protagonist.
‘Squinted’ is an example of what is missing in ‘Discarrier;’ while it is not as manic as other tracks, the way in which soft synths gently dip into an acid bath of drums and noise makes it a fantastic and engaging listen. Elsewhere, Bold Ashes evoke the sound and feel of dark video game soundtracks with pensive quasi-drone synths and lilting, hypnotic rhythm. ‘Eugenia’ and opener ‘An Entrance’ would both fit like a dystopian glove on Final Fantasy VII, but possess enough unique character to make them more than 16-bit nostalgia trips: ‘Eugenia’ taps into the mystical physicality of early Fuck Buttons, and the drums of ‘An Entrance’ border on blast-beats towards its close.
Second Sun, Seventh Sky is an excellent debut statement from a band with ideas aplenty and the talent to execute them. If you like droning and noise rock, or when drums are centre stage, if you’re not into singers, if you like bass in your face – they’re the band that you’ve looked for, buy their record and escape.