The Asphodells Ruled by Passion Destroyed by Lust
In the grand lexicon of DJ culture, there are few artists still working today who can claim to have seen this world unfold since its earliest days. Andrew Weatherall, who began leaving his mark as a DJ on the UK scene back in the '80s, is definitely one of them. A musical curator with broad tastes that have been cultivated over many years—he turns 50 this year—and many career high points, this originator's output rarely fits neatly in any one box. In many ways similar to DJ Harvey's Locussolus project from 2011, Weatherall's latest as the Asphodells, with studio engineer and production partner Timothy J. Fairplay, serves as a culmination of his tastes until now, albeit with a heavy slant towards the dancefloor.
The pair's debut full-length, Ruled by Passion Destroyed by Lust, is a tripped-out excursion through disco, psych rock, post-punk, new wave, and cosmic grooves; the album massages these sounds into a singular being, which is then left to mutate into something all its own. In the end, we're left with a sort of tie-dye disco, held together with safety pins and pomade. The record's opening and closing salvos go the furthest toward defining The Asphodells' sound in musical terms. "A Love From Outer Space (Version 2)," a smoked-out cover of UK dream-pop duo AR Kane, moves at an easy-going 105 bpm. The laid-back affair is coming from the same place spiritually as Todd Terje or Leo Zero; it's rock-tinged dub-disco that unfolds in all manner of reverb, slowly-simmering synths, bongo drums, and folksy vocals that sing of cosmic romance. Similarly, with its strummed sitar, melodica flourishes, fuzz guitar, and Balearic groove, album starter "Beglammered" comes across like the soundtrack to a space odyssey launched from Istanbul.
Vintage electro takes over on "Another Lonely City," as meandering synth melodies and a Peter Hook bassline slink along over padded drum beats and electronic handclaps. This vibe carries over on "The Quiet Dignity," but in more of a Kraftwerk-meets-King Tubby way, with rolling 909 drums, wonky island bass, Britpop guitar work, and a more dominant return to the melodica. Each in its own way hints at Weatherall's Sabres of Paradise days. Tracks like "Never There" and "Skwatch" continue to trace Weatherall's lineage, building on the punk-funk techno of Two Lone Swordsmen. The former combines a percussive disco-techno framework with a post-punk vocal styling, while the latter mixes horn blasts and plucky bass with distorted guitars, cosmic swirls, and a lo-fi 4/4 thump.
Not every execution hits the mark, but even the pervertedly titled "Late-Flowering Lust," which sounds like underwater honky-tonk electroclash, gets a redeeming dub mix that plays up a brand of tremolo surf-rock acid akin to Trentemöller's recent output. Leave it to the always stylish Weatherall to craft a project this outwardly cool, one that's as in touch with his past as it is with some of the scene's best and most fringe contemporary elements.
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