The island of Jersey is a Channel Island off the coast of Normandy, France and has a population of 130,000. There, somewhere, Antony Walker moves from instrument to instrument, in I’d assume is a very small space, laying down tracks on songs written over sometime. Days (weeks/months?) later, finished with the mixing, he releases his little record into the world. He is the force behind this post-emo project with the epic name Astral Cloud Ashes.
What is it? A garage band indie rock with the purity of recently lost virginity and/or the world against you as you are “a vascular automaton just kicking back on Amazon.“ It’s accessible and emotive. The crisp cords and thoughtfully arranged music change tempo in that pleasurable college rock range. The vocals are perfectly balanced and provided with very little production- a simple back up (from collaborator Jason Neil) provides depth but the singer’s thin, over earnest voice melds well with the composition.
Listening to this album feels a bit like finding The Get Up Kids’s Four Minute Mile. This is an early career album and is unvarnished emotion that slides in and out of passionate and melodramatic. But, as it is essentially a one man band, there’s a sense of purpose and thematic intent to the record that help it rise above just another indie rock album.
It enters so smoothly– a slow rolling 1:00 that echoes Brand New and then goes into a sweet rock song, the single, “Moonphase Beam,” which reveals themes of staying young, nostalgia, weekends, insecurity and love. It’s standard emo fare, but with talent and tonal awareness- a better more thorough meal.
The impressive part is the consistent musicianship– song arrangements just flow as on “Old Moods” where the fast, hard accusatory (“Why can’t we…”) chorus links slow self-reflective (“I’m running circles again, all I need is a friend”) verses.
And then there are a couple of misses where there is too much packed in. A few songs are overstuffed like “Ryukyu Declares Independence” which is a common problem of a good early release. Hopefully, the short coming is due to over ambition.
Ultimately, it might be tough to get through all eleven tracks if you’re not 21 as it’s tough to maintain an hour of overarching angst at whatever. But, to indulge the spleen every now again feeds the soul. This album might be a bit raw for many but it shows a strong possibility of being the beginning of increasingly polished and mature music.