Review: Ash Walker – Augmented 7th
Ash Walker – London-based label Deep Heads is best known for pushing seismic slabs of bass-heavy dubstep – in the true sense of the word. But its latest release is making waves in an entirely different pond, with jazz and trip-hop colliding under the fleet fingers of Ash Walker.
On Augmented 7th, Walker builds on the tracks from his Agnostic EP which came out earlier this year, adding another eight cuts which still vibrate with intense low frequencies but shift from bona-fide jazz to Bristolian trip-hop to heavyweight dub – mesmerising stuff.
The first four tracks are those from the Agnostic EP. ‘Cote de Boeuf’ prowls through a forest of tall trees, each one bending under thunderous dubwise bassweight and brooding percussion dropping like leaves in the breeze. Things get even deeper on ‘Bamboo Circus’ a filter-happy, echo-soaked dubber featuring vocals from Segilola which is the furthest Walker strays from jazz on this record.
Driven by an urgent bass riff and insistent hats, ‘Round The Twist’ sounds like the Parisian underbelly, a dark jazz-fusion cut topped with the dreamy melodica of Nikolag Torp-Larsen. Where this track is dense and concentrated, the trip-hop referencing ‘They Do Not Know Yet’ is an open expanse of dusty ride shuffle and understated piano, all underpinned by a pervasive vinyl crackle which points precisely to where Walker wants to go.
‘Noodle’ carries the trip-hop flame with a subtle groove and clean-cut minimalism, and the toned-down ambience of ‘Root Vegetables’ is on fire with it, as are the lush soundscapes of ‘Blue Veins’, which features Zeb Samuels on a cut straight out of Bristol circa 1992. ‘The Slopes’ starts to build a bridge from trip-hop in the vague direction of jazz, coming out as a sort of zero-gravity take on the ground in between them, and ‘Lost Cranium’ glides into orbit, or maybe a sunset, an expansive closing track to an incredible album.
Elsewhere we are served more straight-up jazz – if jazz can ever be described as straight-up – and the freestyle bass noodling of ‘Six Eight’ is a prime example, but it is still bathed in texture. ‘Come On Board’ is powered by an urgent shuffling groove, draped in elegant chords and arpeggios, and with just a ride for percussion ‘Long Arms’ is gentle and all the more haunting for it.
As an added bonus, Walker’s blissful remix of ‘All That You Are’ – originally by his occasional collaborator Zeb Samuels and Rowl with Segilola on vocals – is included in the package, and is in the same sonic ballpark as Bonobo; a collaboration between those two would be something to behold…