Musings on music, old, new, popular and obscure. Post punk, metal, hip-hop, funk, and rock in general. A music fan with a desire to lose boundaries on what should and should not be listened to writes about experience in music from a listener's perspective, hopefully unhindered by prior expectation.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Listen: Do you want to know a secret? -- Aspera (Ad Astra), My Unknown Love

I went out gallivanting again (one more XTC box down!), and perused the endless supply of $1 discount CDs strewn about (but neatly) the Greensboro Edward McKay figuring I could spare $1 here or there.

Surprisingly, I found this:

This is a compilation released in 2000 called Post Marked Stamps. Tree Records released a series of 9 7"s in the late 90s, independent bands of varying stripes (mostly in the realms of what might be termed "emo" and "post rock," I guess). I'd barely interacted with it when I downloaded the track I gathered from a legal source (which has changed enough that I don't mention it by name here), I didn't get the rest of the compilation. Now, later, I did manage to end up with one of the songs, "Lighthouse in Athens, Part 1" by Cerberus Shoal (one of the more obscure post rock bands I took up in the early 2000s), but mostly I'd gotten it for one track: "Black in the Eye" by Aspera Ad Astra.

Normally, this is where I'd link you to that song via YouTube.

I can't. I can link you to the 4 songs that make up their half of the split they released with The Lilys 3 years later on Tigerstyle Records. It's not quite the same style as the track from Post Marked Stamps No. 5, but it's as close as I can get--the later stuff gets even further away.

Note: This includes all 4 tracks in order. The uploader also has the Lilys tracks available in his channel.

Post Marked Stamps No. 5 was a split with Haelah, who I've yet to listen to, though they're naturally on this compiled CD--though I'm attempting to figure out what tracks are edited, as compiler Ken Shipley mentioned in the notes that doing so was necessary. (Cannot seem to find out which though. Perhaps it's further in the notes. Um, woah, it's definitely been done to "Lighthouse in Athens Part 1"--thing's about four and a half minutes shorter!) Aspera Ad Astra recorded and released one album the following year, 1998's Peace, which I stumbled into a vinyl copy of for $8 sealed at CD Alley shortly after moving into the area. It's a fantastically great album, and it was actually my first exposure to the group. It kicks off with the slowly shuffling "Awake" and ends with the relaxed but uptempo "Take It Easy," hitting a wide range on the way, relying on hooks and an easygoing atmosphere to keep you interested. It's no longer in print (on CD, either), sadly.

They dropped a track on Sounds from Psychedelphia, owing to their rather psychedelia-oriented, pseudo-shoegaze style, squeaked out an Insound Tour Support EP (Winged with Rhymes), then recorded Sugar and Feathered for the label Big Wheel Recreation (briefly home, to discuss at another time, of Piebald), then veered off into some kind of weird electronica that I haven't ever really checked out, but that seems wildly out of character, beyond all reckoning. Somewhere in there--for Sugar and Feathered I think--they dropped "Ad Astra" and became just "Aspera." Of course, there's been a Per Aspera Ad Astra album (by Stars of the Lid) and even a band with that name. Throw in a new metal band named Aspera--which Amazon naturally assumes, when dealing with such small bands, is the same one as the one I'm referring to--and it's an absolute headache trying to find much information, and even YouTube is kind of a chore to dig through.

This was an interesting find in a other few ways--finding out that the Cerberus Shoal track is one I already have, from a mess of confusion that comes from independent bands that never gather a huge following, which is obviously becoming a theme here. Of course, now I have it's sequel ("Lighthouse in Athens, Part 2," naturally) because I found the reissue of their debut ...and Farewell to Hightide out there for $1 as well, which includes both "Lighthouse in Athens" singles on a second disc.

Still, beyond that? No, not Dynamite with a Laserbeam: Queen as Heard through the Meat Grinder of [the label called] Three 1 G" that has a version of "Under Pressure" recorded by the Blood Brothers on it (and no, that isn't a joke).

No, I mean beyond that on the compiled Post Marked Stamps.

Track 3 is by emo/post-hardcore (the fact that those two genres can be "slashed" like that should tell you something if you still don't believe emo is related to hardcore and baldly aggressive, loud music) band Braid. So what, you say? Well, Braid released a CD split on their record label, Polyvinyl, which was released on vinyl via DeSoto records. DeSoto was founded by members of Edsel, who recorded and released a split with Jawbox in 1993, but it's now run by Kim Coletta and Bill Barbot, who were in Jawbox. Oh, and the band on the other side of that Braid split? Burning Airlines--founded by J. Robbins after the break up of his first band: Jawbox. And, of course, his original second guitarist was Bill Barbot, top it all off.

Why on earth do I know all of this? Well, once I ran out of Jawbox, I was hungry for more and began looking all over for either of Burning Airlines' two albums. The closest I got was, well, the Braid/Burning Airlines split (the one where Braid covered "Always Something There to Remind Me"). It's the only reason I know who Braid are.

I suppose I might be the only one to find all of this inter-relation delightful, as well as such unusual finds, but that's the end result of letting me run wild with writings about music, I guess.

Let me leave you, though, with my favourite of Cerberus Shoal's songs, "Broken Springs Spring Forth from Broken Clocks" which appeared on that debut ...and Farewell to Hightide:

It's a long, spacey song, but I beg that you let the wonderful descending guitar line come in at 3:09 before you give up. Oh, that sound...

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