Asva - What You Dont Know is Frontier
Southern Records
Drone/Doom
4 songs (69'03")
Release year: 2008
Reviewed by Alex

More often than not the promo sheet the album comes with is not worth the paper it is printed on. In the case of Asva What You Don’t Know is Frontier it was an immense help and a deciding factor for me. Drone music is not something I listen to often and accept outright. The promo sheet, however, carried basically an expanded size review for the album published in Oaken Throne zine. The author obviously knows Stuart Dahlquist, the brain behind Asva, personally, and it is personal understanding of the circumstances What You Don’t Know is Frontier was created under which is required to begin grasping the album. Stuart’s brother Michael, the drummer for an indie rock band Silkworm, was killed a few years ago in Chicago in a car crash with a deranged female ex-model. This tragedy sent Stuart up to his family’s remote cabin in Montana vastness, to grieve, ponder and create. What You Don’t Know is Frontier is a result of that deliberation.

As a post-rock drone album What You Don’t Know is Frontier is boundary pushing, structureless experimental music. Recorded with the help from the members of the scene, the album is a collection of quacky crushing distortion guitar riffs and powerline seething static electricity (opening title track), shimmering percussion floating over a bear of a bass (Christopher Columbus). Where I do understand the outcome less, I am only capable of describing Asva as frequency manipulation, not as extreme as SunnO))), but also less organic than the latest Earth.

Yet half the way through, probably beginning with restless drum rolls and the triumphant end of Christopher Columbus What You Don’t Know is Frontier started making sense for me, because I understood its suspenseful nature in search of the release, that proverbial light at the end of the tunnel in the words of Stuart Dahlquist himself. A Trap for Judges is endless falling in the abyss with waves of darkness closing overhead as the body keeps plunging downwards hitting jagged riff rocks on its way into the bottomless abyss. As desperate as it sounds, the end of the composition, and the end of the album as a whole is this blissful pipe organ, soothing and highly symbolic of the peaceful outcome.

My absolute personal favorite, however, is A Game in Hell, Hard Work in Heaven, a desolate destitute requiem growing from the electroacoustic strumming and shoegazing melody, first carried by an organ and later on moving into the realm of excruciatingly slow, crushing, funeral doom. The song is also sprinkled with a touch of female vocal lines, the only vocalization on the album. Holly Johnson, with her mid-Eastern modulations and lament, sounds alien, not of this Earth, but no less depressing. As miserable as the composition unfolds, the last thing one can expect is the practically thrashy ending outburst, with a cosmic organ still in support. There is truly a way out, and if one seeks it hard enough, the closing resolution will come.

Killing Songs :
A Game in Hell, Hard Work in Heaven
Alex quoted 75 / 100
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