29 Sep 2020
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Tom Ashman - Album Review: Degenerate

24 Sep 2019 // A review by Callum Wagstaff

Tom Ashman is a guitarist, singer-songwriter and music producer from the Orkney Islands in the far north of Scotland. Now based in New Zealand, he has created new material infusing elements of grunge and punk into a folk rock foundation. His latest EP release, Degenerate, highlights his ethos of DIY music making; using as little equipment as he can to convey the essence of his songs straight from artist to audience.

Degenerate possesses a scrappy and candid spirit, laid all the more bare by Tom's stripped back approach to production. Though quintessentially bare boned, I wouldn't describe Degenerate as minimalist. Rather, the war stories and ugly exaggerations of truth are rich in detail and grubby, unkempt animosity. Ashman's engaging storytelling takes the foreground and his gift for a sardonic turn of phrase becomes the main feature, making the songs at once cerebral and impetuously
emotional.

The track Take Me Like A Pill sports a bouncy and percussive chord sequence subverted by lamenting refrains like "pissing in the wind, lying for the sake of it." The tracks Bad Company and God have attention piquing percussive moments; catchy triplets and endearing fills are setups for characterful vocal performances. There is a sarcastically theatrical passage in God that makes the song funny until it's betrayed by the artful delivery of "They'll speculate the date you blew your brains out at your home."

In among the vivid images of a chaotically valiant mentality there is a breathy, at times underwhelming sort of whisper yell that may be a side effect of low-fi self-production. Ashman plays the part of protagonist, antagonist, provocateur and self-punisher but the immediacy of his desperate and dirty lyrics is sometimes undercut by his delivery. In Violent Dreams, for example, Ashman stumbles like a madman between mutters and exclamatory outbursts. In those peak moments his voice has the feel of somebody trying not to be too loud, limiting the impact when he comes back down to lines like the perspective skewing moments his voice has the feel of somebody trying not to be too loud, limiting the impact when he comes back down to lines like the perspective skewing "No friend fucks like you."

During the more sombre moments of Degenerate though, like the breathing space of Digging For The Sun, his lyrical guile and textured tone meets seamlessly with his delivery. This is particularly well exemplified in his varying deliveries of the recurring lyric particularly well exemplified in his varying deliveries of the recurring lyric "face like a loaded gun."

Tom Ashman embodies the spirit of those musical traditions that revel in stripping down to essentials: genres like punk and folk which use music as a vehicle for important ideas and deeply harboured confessionals. Degenerate feels like sitting next to a good mate watching the sun rise, slowly beginning to baste in the congealed beer and body fluids of the night before.

Rating: ( 3 / 5 )
 

About Tom Ashman

Tom Ashman is a songwriter and multi-instrumentalist hailing from the Orkney Islands in the far north of Scotland. He's recently relocated to New Zealand.

His debut EP Degenerate is available online at all the usual streaming and download sites. He wrote all the songs and played all the instruments, recording on his laptop in his bedroom.

His music often strays outwith a set genre although he is firmly rooted in Alternative Rock. He has been hugely influenced by the punk ethos of DIY music making and production, and tries to keep his sound as raw and accessible as possible.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Tom Ashman

Releases

Degenerate
Year: 2019
Type: Album
Degenerate Demos
Year: 2018
Type: Album

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