Ashtray Navigations – The Apotheosis of VaVaVoom

3 out of 5

Label: VHF Records

Produced by: Ashtray Navigations (?) 

Fuzzy noisemakers Ashtray Navigations deliver a surprisingly digestible and accessible cut of rockers and ambience, bringing in some guest musicians on drums and horns to lend the record a very organic vibe. …But is that what we want? It’s tough to say.

The Apotheosis of VaVaVoom starts off with such strong, grabbing examples of Phil Todd’s / Melanie O’Dubhshlane’s skronky craft that it’s encouraging to think yes, this is what we want, but these examples turn out to be a lead-in to a lack of zigging and zagging: the opening pairing of a guitar-fronted rocker and a followup bit of bubbly bliss ambience is mirrored in the remainder of the disc, and in a somewhat linear – for the band – fashion. 

The production style here supports that read, muting the wealth of noise into a pleasant burble. For most acts, this stuff is still pretty out there – psyche explorations, noisy sound collages – but for Ashtray, it feels rather tamped down; a chilled out version of their norm, where even the tear of the first track’s riffing has a poppy vibe to it. This isn’t a bad thing, by any means! But it is very laid back, and comparatively (for the band) stifling in a way that limits the range of what we hear, alternating between fuzzy effects and casual percussion clatter and hazed out jamming.

A perfectly inoffensive and ultimately satisfying sample of songs, but also only an entry point to the more expansive and enduring stuff Ashtray has otherwise put out.