The first word that comes to mind when considering Ashley & Story’s latest release, "Standing + Falling," is "grace." Not just the grace of the music itself, although it does move with unhurried presence and the rhythm of calm breath. Rather, it’s the CD taken as a whole—the construction of each individual piece, the play of the elements within each, and the relationship between tracks—that evokes the overarching sense of grace. The disc opens with the slow dance of "Obstinato," where a gentle strings-feel melody meets electronic twiddling, setting the tone for the pieces to follow. That combination of playfulness and deep e-music sensibility pervades the work.
Take, for example, the transition from the gentle flow of "Poppies [for Irene]" into the blip-and-funk cool of "Chicken Pot Pie." While utterly different in form, there’s an oddly complementary feel to placing one after the other. It happens in perfect reverse order in the movement from the twangy-bass-and-beat-driven title track into the warm and dark current of "Ohmen." "Standing + Falling" closes with the 20-minute-long "Dysnipsia," a gorgeous exercise in drifting minimalism that truly exemplifies the work’s quality of grace.
Across the breadth of this CD, Ashley and Story build exquisite landscapes loaded with tiny, constantly moving details. Each is rich in emotion and nicely balanced between dark and light, simple and complex.
It’s worth noting that the collaborative efforts between Ashley and Story on this CD took place largely via electronic media, with each adding elements bit by bit as the pieces evolved. The seamless melding of musicality and atmosphere from each pays a great tribute to the natural ease of their compositional chemistry.
John Shanahan/The Hypnagogue
Reviewed by John Shanahan for Ambient Visions