Web of Mimicry, the label owned by former Mr Bungle member Trey Spruance has offered some fascinating records over the years such as those of Secret Chiefs 3 and Estradasphere, then more recently the Guapo offshoot Miasma and the Carousel of Headless Horses record Perils. Also quietly released from being stuck in the web on the same day several months ago was the first album from the extreme supergroup Asva. Having been originally formed by Burning Witch members B.R.A.D. and G. Stuart Dahlquist, the band were joined by drone star Dylan Carlson and put out a split release with Burning Witch. Then the group shrank only to grow revitalised into a six piece band (including the label boss) which recorded this full-length Futurists Against the Ocean.
First track “Kill the Dog, Tie Them Up, Then Take the Money” is an archetypical doom track, with epic downtuned, downtempo progressions in the tradition of Black Sabbath or the aforementioned Burning Witch. This is perhaps the least challenging or experimental of the pieces on this album but offers an awesome example of the power of the style and the band. The addition of the synth parts to the Asva line-up lend a different edge though to the standard doom, in fact similar to that of fellow instrumentalists and fine examples of the heavy end of the neo-progressives Tarantula Hawk and Yeti, but Asva remain distinct from even these using other techniques to add to the intensity of the piece like multiple muttering whisper tracks and also their own slow math signatures. Second track “Beyonsense” is more of a drone experiment with polyphonic synth waves repeating over and over again, before half way into the 12 minute piece what are almost ritualistic tribal drums beat away, moving in and out around the steadily increasing distortions of the waves and fuzzing bass.
the pulsing heartbeat underneath keeping the listener afloat in the piece’s droning wash
The second half of Futurists Against the Ocean offers what are perhaps the more experimental or different pieces which appear on this record. Opener “Kill the Dog, Tie Them Up, Then Take the Money” is an amazing template for the live show which has recently awed English audiences (as is fourth and final album track “By the Well of Living and Seeing” but without vocals) but the record shows that Asva can also offer more than this. It contains not just the power of Jessika Kenney’s vocals, joined by others from the band on the fourth track, but also some themes and feelings at which the other songs dont bring out so strongly. There is an incredibly haunting, celestial feel in these more choral-based songs. “Fortune”’s minimal instrumental texture is complemented by a vocal line conjuring powerful images of high-church ceremonies or emotional melodies sung out to the sea, the pulsing heartbeat underneath keeping the listener afloat in the piece’s droning wash. An old and ritualistic sentiment is again created within the group chorals of “By the Well of Living and Seeing” which has perhaps one of the most powerful harmonies you’ll ever hear at 6 minutes 10 seconds into the song. The piece offers music similar to that of the first but with more variation in the guitar work and even more technical ability in the slow tempos. It is a deep exploration yet despite the overall dark feel and mood of the music, remains a progressively and engrossingly uplifting piece which ends the record on a definite high. This is an incredibly impressive debut from several seasoned masters who have brought themselves together and formed something new and exiting. Futurists Against the Ocean shows an emotive and evocative songwriting ability and is a fantastic addition to the doom canon.