Release Date: Mar 4, 2014
Record label: Captured Tracks
Genre(s): Pop, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Lo-Fi, Indie Pop, Neo-Psychedelia
In an age where you can plug a couple of peripherals into your laptop and transform it into a music studio, there’s no real excuse for sounding lo-fi anymore. But then, that wasn’t all that the original lo-fi wave was about. Back in the ‘80s, the humble four-track recorder was a tool of liberation. For the first time, you didn’t need to pool your pennies to pay for expensive studios, where so-called professionals could explain to you how you were supposed to be doing it.
Ben Asbury, who records as Axxa / Abraxas, writes killer tunes. There are 10 of them on his new record. Axxa is a solo ‘project’ that’s found a suitable home on the ever-eclectic, ever-influential Captured Tracks label hailing out of Brooklyn NY. He writes some of the catchiest music ever committed to tape, all while drawing from a seemingly inexhaustible well of retro musical ideas and textures.
Long the hermetic solo project of Georgia-based art student Ben Asbury, Axxa/Abraxas existed first as sonic companion pieces to Asbury's psychedelic visual art. Various locally distributed CD-R and cassette releases give way to this self-titled debut album, recorded and released with help from New York friends Jarvis Taveniere playing bass and rolling tape and Aaron Neveu drumming. Both Taveniere and Neveu also do time in the rootsy indie group Woods, and the dusty stamp of that band shows up on several of Asbury's tunes here.
It’s hard not to listen to Ben Asbury, the 23 year-old Atlanta native behind Axxa/Abraxas, and not think about all of the sweet, long-haired stoners who haunted record stores back in my college town. They were the guys with obsessive record collections and an extensive knowledge of zine culture, dudes with the wherewithal to run their own mail order tape labels and put on all-ages shows in shitty makeshift venues while still finding time to pursue mostly unusable degrees. Maybe they also sold you weed.
There once was an ugly duckling. This duckling performed some really out-there live performances, estranging great swathes of his audience in the process. Someone saw beauty in the ugly duckling, however, and took the bird in, nurturing it, giving it proper studio time, and a record deal. Before, the duckling had been making cassette tapes to hand out at raves held by hipster beavers, and is quoted to have said, "Being able to say 'Hey check out this cassette tape' is a lot cooler than just saying 'Hey, check out this SoundCloud.'' Eventually, the record was complete, and the ugly duckling looked at its reflection in a mirror, and saw that it had turned into a phoenix.
The latest addition to Brooklyn super-label Captured Tracks is 23-year-old Atlanta native Ben Asbury and his Axxa/Abraxas project. With his self-titled debut, he mines already well-covered terrain, but does it exceedingly well - mixing the indie pop sensibilities of label mate Wild Nothing with the melodic folk of Woods, and White Fence’s psychedelia infused garage rock. Over ten tracks, in just over forty minutes, Asbury manages to rush through the past fifty years of American music history, taking cues from 60s pop, folk rock, post-punk and 90s indie, often without missing a beat.
Atlanta native Ben Asbury penned the ten songs that make up his proper full-length debut while still in college, around the same time he founded the RTA Collective to release silk-screens and limited edition cassettes. He's a self-professed record collector and it wouldn't be a stretch to call his debut record collection rock. The self-titled album marries sunny '60s psychedelia with analog synths under the guise of hooky, Flying Nun-indebted indie.