Label: Blackest Ever Black
Ashtray Navigations's To Make A Fool picks up where the nerve-damaged exotica of 2015's A Shimmering Replica left off - acerbic "surf" guitar and synthetic salt-breeze fit for the Tropic of Yorkshire. Instant immersion in a potent, pungent psychedelia that feels equal parts cosmic and aquatic. What Phil Todd wrenches out of his instrument these days is a language unto itself - a helical, grieving howl, a (super)natural efflorescence, beyond earthly description - ur-rock and post-everything. Equal emphasis is given here to pulsating machine rhythms and lush keyboard textures, with contributions by Mel O'Dubhshlaine. There were pre-echoes of all this in the recent Fluctuants (2015) and Aero Infinite(2014), but To Make A Fool feels like the fullest expression of something which was only glimpsed in those earlier works. The side-long "Spray Two" - gently eddying string-pads gradually slashed with fraught piano improvisations - is a masterpiece in its own right. At its delirious peak, the whole thing boils over into brooding, arpeggiated noir-techno - Michael Mann's steadicam roaming Leeds's B-roads, some kind of tangerine nightmare - before finally cooling into a bleary starfield of pure and sumptuous hypno-tone. This is a trip, in the most skull-splitting, soul-crinkling sense of the word, but it soothes and heals as well. A circular and transformative journey to the other side of the underneath, and a landmark recording from one of the most adept and visionary nodes in Britain's freak-out underground.