What You Don’t Know Is Frontier


Shapes. Colors. Sounds. Smells. ASVA’s sound portraits stimulate every one of the senses as the listener’s eyelids flutter tentatively shut and the ears become the prime conduit for sensation. The music on What You Don’t Know Is Frontier stretches beyond the blackened doom that we known Stuart Dahlquist best for (Sunn0))), Burning Witch) and heads straight into ever-more free and personal terrain. Built around four long pieces that resemble in tone and color the likes of Jesu, Sun Rad, Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Neurosis, this is heady music. For What You Don’t Know, Dahlquist assembled an eight-strong ensemble that includes members of Earth, Burning Witch and Mr. Bungle, and even though some of the instrumental credits read like a Mahavishnu Orchestra sleeve (vibes, electric wind), the performances on the record are a model of glacial restraint. (‘Cuz you know the likes of Trey Spruance could wail with the best of them.)

As with the Futurists Against The Ocean album, ASVA remakes inner space as outer space, emotions and moods and consciousness become geographic in nature, dizzying peaks, long gray valleys and still pools of cold water. The progression of a song seems free and instinctual but the players are tightly reined in, all working toward a unified purpose of communal minimalist drone. The title track is tentative crests of ebb-and-flow distortion underneath a bed of gently swelling organ and electrode hum; it builds and builds to a foreboding Morricone-esque endgame. “Christopher Columbus” is six minutes of bass-string-bending and harmonic feedback that sounds like it would kick off a thrash metal song in the mid ’80s, cymbals shudder and flutter like Haunted House shutters. Then it just veers off through the ruins of some technoid society before ending up in a Viking hall with attendant epic Skyclad riffery. “A Game In Hell, Hard Work In Heaven” shifts dramatically in tone texture and mood, from lurching medieval doom, to a pounding discordant rush of Mary Chain-meets-Ministry static shock, to, most effectively, a reverent incantation courtesy of Holly Johnston that brings to mind Lisa Gerrard’s pre-verbal hymns. “A Trap For Judges” is like Harmonia and the instrumental side of David Bowie’s “Heroes” filtered through Deep Purple and Hawkwind; a gleaming perpetual motion machine that builds and builds around one epic riff before finally dissolving into heavensent cathedral ambiance.

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