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Ashtray Navigations - To Your Fucking Feather'd Wings

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Artist: Ashtray Navigations

Album: To Your Fucking Feather'd Wings

Label: Gold Soundz

Review date: Apr. 6, 2005

English artist Phil Todd has been an underground presence for well over a decade, engaging in countless groups and collaborations, signing on as an occasional member of Vibracathedral Orchestra and Sunroof!, and releasing numerous documents of dissident art via his Betley Welcomes Careful Drivers and Memoirs of an Aesthete labels. Todd’s major achievement, though, is his ongoing solo project Ashtray Navigations. Releasing a baffling amount of cassettes, LPs, CDs and CD-Rs, Todd has refined a singular take on modern sound construction that references the dynamics of rock, the emotional evisceration of blues and the white-light intensity of noise.

To Your Fucking Feather’d Wings is Ashtray Navigations’ first full-length since Todd temporarily disappeared from view earlier this decade, but you can immediately hear his individual thumb-print on the recording, a baked slurry of bleached tones and woozy fidelity. On “Fried Stars,” tape detritus accumulates around an epiphanic guitar lead, evoking Keiji Haino in miniature. By the time you reach the closing 45-minute title track, Todd is broadcasting from an interstellar shortwave radio station, with his blasted guitar submerged under frazzled layers of distortion. The reception repeatedly shorts out, stuttering the piece’s development. Sometimes the sound is so amorphous and hazy you wonder whether Todd has drawn from dub’s aesthetic of disappearance.

Todd’s deployment of scratchy, mottled textures is an audio analog of the film-stock manipulations of such filmmakers as Stan Brakhage. The plasticity of the carrier medium comes under direct attack, with Todd building so many strata of grit and dirt, it’s as though he’s applying plaster, mould and lichen direct to reel-to-reel tape.

By Jon Dale

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