Currently it's hard to find a newcomer that, being tuned with the seminal Post-Punk and Synth Rock sounds, hadn't become a dull rip-off. Those young bands can be counted on the fingers of one hand, in my opinion. The Melbourne-based trio Ascetic is one of them, as it's demonstrated in their impressive debut album "Self Initiation". August Skipper (vocals, bass), Saxon Jorgensen (guitar, programming) and Damian Coward (drums, known from the band Heirs), burrow into the swampy grounds of subconscious. Infused by toxicity, the lyrics are sharpen through cunning sound structures. With an unadorned No Wave attitude, they create immersive atmospheres which are imbued with dissonance (Swans and The Soft Moon are one their main influences), while being hooky enough through pulsating bass lines, intense drumming and throwback reverberated guitars. Together with the echoing moans and declamations by August, these elements act as a unique catalyst for an altered state of consciousness, where the initial Post-Punk euphoria comes down into brooding Coldwave near the end of the album. So, let's go deeper throughout the nine tracks featured.
Driven by a prominent rhythm section, the opener "Pharmacy" sets up an hypnotic ambience which will stay present along the whole listening. Some glimmering chords and synthed organ lines wreathe the barely harmonious singing, providing a haunting ambiance. Cymbals, droning atonalities and assertive riffs make the song vibrate violently from time to time. Honoring the band's Post-Punk influences since it begins, "We Are All Dead" bursts into the scene. The pace accelerates pushed by howling guitars, moody bass and ceaseless drum thuds. The spirit of Joy Division is called on here. Together with the following "I Burn", both songs could make up Self Initiation's crowning moment. Petering away on a static electric fuzz, spoken vocals, metallic drum beats and guitar sound-enriching effects, this track provides an intense, darker atmosphere. "Religion" pushes the tempo forward again, driven by relentless machined drums and catchy guitars. Keeping the Ascetic's identity safe, this song sounds more contemporary than the others. The following track, "Trankasham", marks a turning point in the album. From then on, the repertoire will become more dense and icy. Thus, the aforementioned is built in an abstract downtempo with Trip-Hop tendencies, bearing certain sound resemblance to the emblematic Cocteau Twins. Next, "Before the Storm" dives into the murky waters of Psychedelia and Post-Rock. A greater role is given to the guitars, switching from the chrystalline, distant chords to the abrasive distortions. Below is the shouted "Uroboros (Up From Eden)", where August's desperate sermon is thrown to the noisy preprogrammed winding, driven by the marching drums. As the track moves forward, a classic Cure-esque guitar passage takes it over progressively. Following that path, the Coldwave engine of "A Day In The Fields" starts softly. Its greyish ambiance expands gradually into a sonic spiral, twisting the steady rhythmical core and the whispered vocals. In addition, some british indie rock hints break the hypnotic atmosphere occasionally and make the tune even more interesting. Once the anguish environment has been prepared, the brooding "Silver Circle" begins to slide through a minimalist structure. Things are kept tight and simple, there's no unnecessary instrumentation and this economical approach helps to create an hermetic environment. Repetitive, soft percussion and a little dose of programming, strings and synths, join the tedious singing to conform a sorrowful and perturbing soundscape.
In short, "Self Initation" is a wily transformation of vintage and modern sounds that plunges the listener in a particularly nightmarish purification. Surrounding Post-Punk/Synth Rock hybrid of the Ascetic's own, cleverly balanced, that pulls out what is hidden down in the listener's mind. Hope that the Australians give continuity to the catharsis in their subsequent releases.
Review by Billyphobia