A Sunny Day in Glasgow

    Ashes Grammar


    Although this Philadelphia band does have loose ties to Scotland, its name seems more metaphorical description of its sound than a geographical placement: dim, misty, and elusive, with moments of light breaking through the clouds. On the band’s second LP, Ashes Grammar, the group maintains its experimental layering of noise, beats, and reverb but pops it up a bit with some nearly discernible lyrics and livelier rhythms, at least in comparison to 2007’s Scribble Mural Comic Journal.


    A Sunny Day in Glasgow seems to be striving for something abstract, almost elemental in its sound — something that permeates the subconscious to be felt rather than heard. The album does hit some recognizable high points, but those points result from spending an equal (or greater) amount of music-time being lost in a fog of echoing doldrums. In those moments that the sun does come out, it is like peeling away the layers of raincoats and itchy sweaters to find the warm body underneath. It becomes comforting and delightful, but then slips away again into mystery. It is a wonderful effect to achieve, but to travel the ups and downs of this musical sine wave for over an hour is exhausting, irritating, and almost unbearable.


    The 22 tracks on this album range freely in length from 11 seconds to six and a half minutes and a rare few would stand on their own, as the musical shifts between them can be so slight. Highlights include “Failure,” the closest thing to a single on the album; “Close Chorus,” the longest song; “Passionate Introverts,” a pulsing, nearly danceable track; “Evil, with Evil, Against Evil,” which is instrumentally complex; “Blood White,” as a mellow capsule of the album; and “Starting at a Disadvantage,” which in fact seems more of a sprint to the finish. But listen to it back to front and it will feel like it’s burrowing a hole in your head and filling it up with tangled yarn and sparkles and muddy bones and light.