Iconic Unfolded Ash

Australian Guitarist Nick Ashwood came our way in 2019 when he played with Amanda Stewart and Jim Denley as part of 180º on the record Submental. He’s here today with a solo set Unfolding / Overlay (INEXHAUSTIBLE EDITIONS ie-027), which unfolds as a single track of 38:30 mins. Submental was interesting enough, but struck me as a bit unfocused, a shade too concerned with its “clever” subtexts, and not creating especially memorable music. Unfolding / Overlay is a lot more accessible – it’s a solid set of droning and shifting overtones, produced by bowing two acoustic guitars. He used just intonation tuning and strapped on a capo when playing, and I think the finished work comprises two separate tape recordings which, when played back simultaneously, generate even more overtones and harmonics.

I suppose one antecedent for this would be the overlaid violin drones of Tony Conrad, although he was also trying to prove something about the grand error (as he would see it) of Western tuning scales, and through acting out his performance as a one-man thesis on two legs, created quite dissonant and challenging music that was sometimes tough to endure. Ashwood, conversely, has no bone to pick with musical history, and welcomes whatever harmonic overtones may result from his generous bowing actions, with the music mostly electing to operate around a single root chord. Amanda Stewart, who wrote the liner notes, is fine with it too, praising its “restraint and elegance”, and keeps finding new things in this rich drone every time she hears it.

Ashwood mimics certain elements from more hard-core minimalist composers and performers, but seems to be mostly interested in the process and doesn’t seem to have any intellectual concepts to convey, not even about duration; that said, there are graphic scores (reproduced in the CD) that presumably shaped the work. From 28th April 2021.

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