Dreamy guitar pop, big ideas and blooming talent from Atlanta's Ben Asbury
In an age where you can plug a couple of peripherals into your laptop and transform it into a music studio, there’s no real excuse for sounding lo-fi anymore. But then, that wasn’t all that the original lo-fi wave was about. Back in the ‘80s, the humble four-track recorder was a tool of liberation. For the first time, you didn’t need to pool your pennies to pay for expensive studios, where so-called professionals could explain to you how you were supposed to be doing it. You could do anything, sound any way you pleased.
Which brings us to Ben Asbury. Twenty-three years old, originally from North Carolina, but currently settled in Atlanta, Georgia, Asbury is an amateur screenprinter, runs a cassette label, and has some big ideas about cosmic harmony, Gnostic philosophy and the like. All of this has a bearing on the music he makes as Axxa/Abraxas: dreamy, thoughtful, expansive guitar pop that’s rather too lush and developed to pass as lo-fi, but owing much to the genre’s spirit of invention and self-actualisation.
Though it’s a project that fits neatly on the roster of Captured Tracks, a label where longhaired dudes playing jangly guitar is a standard mode, there’s little here that feels rote. From Crazy Horse-style guitar jamming (‘So Far Away’) to eerie madrigals (‘Beyond The Wind’), to harmony-laden Byrds beat pop (‘Painted Blue’), here we get the sense of a young man fastidiously assembling his own musical language.
Exactly what ‘Axxa/Abraxas’ is all about is difficult to discern, and perhaps moot. Asbury seems like the kind of guy who lives deep inside his head, and lyrically speaking, the likes of ‘I Almost Fell’ feel vague, an expression of things deep-held and personal, not shaped to strike a chord. That’ll come, maybe. Maybe not, it doesn’t matter. All we can say for sure is that here is a talent in bloom, the sound of ideas finding shape, winding out in all directions.