The title, first. Is that “Ashpalt” or “Asphalt”? I wasn’t persuaded, and googling around didn’t help that much. The spelling, on both the cover and the disc of this limited edition (100 copies) – and, especially, on the label’s website – corresponds to the former. That will remain. (STOP PRESS May 11, 2010: Colin Potter just informed me that it’s a case of dragged-along typo – it was supposed to be “Asphalt”…)
Let’s stick to what’s ascertainable – that is, the sonic content. This is a delightfully soothing release, constructed with recordings that principally derive from echoes of urban and rural zones which were entirely gathered by Phil Mouldycliff, who calls them “audio debris field”. The choice of sources might be well known, but something digs deeper in this collection of talking people, bell towers, blackbirds, cars and related – and never toxic – emissions. I can’t put my finger on the rationale behind the following affirmation, however a number of artists active in this area seem to gift the most obvious human manifestation captured on tape with a spiritual essence, a familiar character, a sensitiveness that elsewhere is totally unknown. Mouldycliff is definitely a member of this restricted group, all his materials heard in this place having always met total approval. No bombast, no protrusions, just regular sounds carefully chosen and deployed. Quite often, that’s enough.
This notwithstanding, after Potter’s processing and mixing measures kick in, daily reality turns into a striking form of semi-abstract acoustic art. A slight deformation of the overtones here, a few gentle touches of echoing shimmer there, more mildly warped gurgling treatments over there, and even the unfriendly materializations (not many, indeed…) become reasons for merriness. We couldn’t really compare the totality of these elements to analogous memories: a little bit of everything – at least partially connected to the genres touched by these men through the years – is visible, synthesized in a completely personal statement. One that gives pleasure in abundant doses without making us feeling guilty of appreciating an easier-to-swallow record for a change.