Composer Dwight Ashley created solo works for nearly 20 years before his first CD, Discrete Carbon, was issued in 2004. Prior to that project, many came to know him through two collaborations of the 1990s with fellow Ohio artist Tim Story - A Desperate Serenity and Drop. Although Watermelon Sugar is his most recent solo release, the tracks on the album were actually recorded 15 years ago, during the time the Ashley/Story projects were produced. Those familiar with Serenity and Drop will find in Watermelon Sugar telling overtones of Story's influence during this period - while those who know Ashley largely through his solo work of the mid 2000's will get a glimpse into an unseen phase of his career that clearly lays the groundwork for his later solo projects. The first several tracks on Watermelon Sugar have a distinctly dreamy, wistful character that at the outset seem almost too pretty for an Ashley work. In his characteristic fashion, however, the serene note on which the album begins is transformed almost seamlessly into emotional discord at the title track, an aching anthem to distant memories and personal loss. In the middle of the album, Ashley tips his hand with an earlier version of an Ashley/Story track, Jealous Entropy No. 1. White China is somewhat of a companion piece to the previously released Poppies for Irene, both of which were products of a series of recording sessions in which he was creating music for his mother-in-law, who was battling terminal cancer. Ashley's most classically 'ambient' tracks on the album are Remembering 76 (in which some may detect the influence of the Fripp & Eno classic, Evening Star) and Hallways and Corridors, which exhibits the proto-industrial sound palette Ashley featured more than a decade later in his 2006 release, Ataxia. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Ashley includes three quasi-classical tracks, including a spacey threnody he playfully entitled Taps. For those looking for more of the Ashley/Story sound palette, they'll find it on Watermelon Sugar. For those interested in exploring Ashley's creative past, they'll find it on Watermelon Sugar, too.
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