Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Ashtech - Walkin' Target (Original TC Review)

Interchill Records: 2007

(2017 Update:
Ten years ago, almost to the day, this item dropped, and aside from Meditronica in 2009, nothing since - not even a contributing credit under his real name of Andrea Nicoletti. I know Lord Discogs doesn't have *all* the information out there, but surely it'd have something like added bass licks or keyboard jams to a project elsewhere. Yet checking out Ashtech's website now leads to a laser cutting company. It all strikes me as odd, considering the aggressive PR campaign Ashtech had when he was making his still active. I mean, for such a scant discography currently to his name, dude's got quite the Wiki written up. Anyone know what's up with that?

Walkin' Target has gradually grown better to my ears over the years (decade!). True, it's still not doing much different with reggae-dub and dancehall that you can't hear elsewhere, but it does it so well, I don't give a care. Maybe it's that I haven't heard many other albums of this sort in all that time, due to my lackadaisical efforts exploring this genre deeper beyond its shores. Then again, every time I throw this album on, folks within earshot always get their bop on when hearing Essential Credential, so that must mean ol' Ash' and Gaudi were onto something "natural universal" here.)


IN BRIEF: Ready on d’em roots, aigh’t?

The British must feel an eternal bond to Jamaica since the colonial period; it has to be the reason several UK youth are constantly inspired by the Caribbean island’s music. Roots, reggae, dub, and everything in between is as much a fixture with England’s potheads as grime is with the slums of London. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that many Jamaican immigrants bring their musical philosophies with them; one love between two island nations... or such.

Despite being Italian of origin before settling in London, Mr. Andrea Nicoletti – Ashtech - has felt this influence no less; chalk it up to his bass playing background - when you feel ‘d’em riddims’, the bass-heavy production of dub beckons. Long a collaborator, this is the first time he’s taken center-stage on a full-length, and he doesn’t hold back on exploring what roots music has to offer. >bR?
...such to the point he almost falls into the trap of merely copying it rather than providing his own spin. If you’ve casual knowledge of this music, you’ll find there isn’t much stylistically unique on Walkin’ Target. Ashtech honors the foundation pioneers like King Tubby laid out all those decades ago, so if this has never held much appeal for you, then it’s doubtful his album will change your mind.

Also, as this is very groove-orientated music, the direction of a given track is typically found in the sub-bass frequencies. As a result, those without the speakers to bring out the full dynamics of the lower end of the sonic realm (I’m looking at you, iPod generation) will be missing out. That extra layer of sound can vastly change your perspective of a given song here: where a run-of-the-mill roots tune will sound ordinary on ol’ laptop speakers, suddenly there’s something rather special going on once powerful sub-whoofers show just how intuitive that bassline really is.

Hmm, two nitpicks right out of the gate. Am I going to say anything nice at all about Walkin’ Target then? Absolutely, but I know you people can be fickle when it comes to dub, so best I clearly establish the generalizations before I get to the particulars, eh?

So... the particulars.

This is as fine a collection of dub as you’ll find these days. Already mentioned are the basslines, which grumble and growl in many cuts, but let us not forget about all the effects that come with the package. Cavernous reverb, endless streams of decay, stuttery echoes: all accounted for and present, with none sounding superfluous or overdone (an all too common side-effect from too much reefer indulgence with other acts). And while Walkin’ Target is mostly Ashtech’s show, the presence of long-time dub producer Gaudi in the studio with him definitely aids in getting the most out of all the production tricks the genre’s been known for. Even if the roots of the music are over-familiar, there are plenty of unique twists and turns provided to keep the attentive entertained.

And Ashtech does dabble in many variations too. There’s bouncy dub (Beat Da Drum, Gringo , Mahayana), darker ambient excursions (Buzz Dub, R.E.M.), grimier cuts borrowing from London’s dubstep scene (While The Music Plays, DNA), and traditional reggae styles (Sun Shines On You, Essential Credential). Even hip-hop and techno get an influential nod (Individuality and Plain Speaking, respectively).

As good as many as these are though, it’s when Cheshire Cat lends his talents to a track that things are taken up a notch on this album. You may recognize him as the guy releasing pressure or chanting about poor men on Leftfield tunes. While most of his toasting here is in support of Ashtech’s tracks, they add that extra bit of quirky roots vitality which is utterly infectious.

Except for the title track itself, where the Cat completely steals the show. Mind, that’s kind of the point, as he tells a harrowing story of inner-city strife: the death of a young man trying to make it big, dying for his troubles, and the anguish felt by his mother as a result. Ashtech wisely produces a backing track to complement the tale, and is the clear highlight of Walkin’ Target.

I suppose there’s little more to say here, as this release really does speak for itself. Revolutionary? Not really. Niche specific? Yeah, pretty much. Good nonetheless? Damn skippy, hippie! If Ashtech displays this much skill in honoring the past, one can only wonder what his future will hold.

Written by Sykonee for TranceCritic.com, 2007. © All rights reserved.


ACE TRACKS:
Walkin’ Target
While The Music Plays
Essential Credential

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