Thursday, 12 February 2015

Ashley Reaks - Compassion Fatigue (1-8)

I stumbled over this intriguing oddity thanks to James Hendry's Gigging Forever website. Mr Reaks describes himself thus: "Born wrong, collage artist, experimental post-punk musician, adult child, dole-veteran, therapy survivor, reality-avoider". While avoiding some reality or other he came up with the novel concept behind Compassion Fatigue (1-8). There are eight songs. The first is in A and is one minute long. The second is in B and is two minutes long and so on.

Musically it is a weird mix of cut-up, dub reggae bass, restive percussion, post-punk jerkiness, off-kilter jazz breaks, and poptastic melody, and all very toe-tapping it is, too. The lyrics are something else entirely, for it seems Mr Reaks has a mind full of deformed creatures that live at the bottom of sewers. Here's a milder example of the black-as-night humour on offer: "Smeared in baby lotion, lizard loving loner. Crackshot with a crossbow and a crack-induced boner". That comes from Street Cleaning which juxtaposes its filthy mind with "shooby doo-wops" in the style of M's Pop Music, shimmied with a nonchalant swagger.

Dig beneath the dirt and the flippancy, and Reaks delivers a serious message, best expressed in the concluding Disconnected:

"I am the little child without a game to play
I’m the preacherman without a word to say
I am the lunatic without his private hell
the comedian without a joke to tell...
...I’ve got a spirit that just won’t die
I’ve got a freedom only pain can buy
I’m not a part of the tick-tock lie"

All delivered to a groovy faux world-music vibe. It puts me in mind of the atmosphere of Jah Wobble's equally barking and great Take Me To God album. There's some marvellous dirty sax in there, too.

This guy, had he been in New York twenty years ago would have ended up in Kramer's Shimmydisc stable, no question. Ashley Reaks is a maverick with an ear for a tune, and Compassion Fatigue (1-8) is a quite refreshing change from some of the navel-gazing seriousness I tend to lose myself in.

1. Compassion Fatigue (1:00)
2. The World The Dead Have Made For Us (2:00)
3. Cold Body Pussycat (3:00)
4. Wrong 'Un (guess...)
5. Cot Death Grandmother
6. Street Cleaning
7. Joyless Joy
8. Disconnected (...yep...8:00)

Line up:
Ashley Reaks - vocals, guitars, bass, keyboards
Maria Jardardottir - vocals
Dave Kemp - saxophones, accordion
Ian Peak - saxophones on track 6
Nick Dunne - guitars and keyboards on tracks 4 and 6
Mark Law - drums on tracks 1 and 2.
Dan Mizen - drums on track 6

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