Listen to a selection of tracks annotated by Ashtray Navigations' Phil Todd. Ashtray Navigations are on the cover of The Wire 378
"Detox Mr Mustard"
Originally released on a 7" lathe cut disc released by Medusa Records of Canada – if released is the right word for something that was limited to 20 copies. Still, they looked lovely. This track was picked by Mr Neil Campbell for the forthcoming Ashtray retrospective box set. A breezy opener, as Viv Stanshall would say, though the breeze in question becomes a whirlwind of total guitar saturation by the end. Again.
From a 2010 CD-R called Ink Clouds And Axe Revealer and selected for the box set by Pete Coward. I was very into sequencers around the time this was recorded, and very into Philippe Garrell's film La Revelateur (hence the CD title), which doesn't have any sound and doesn't need any.
"Licking Plastic Trees"
Selected by Henry Rollins from 1994 cassette Bicycle Glue Blues. The earliest Ashtray track here, from the days when I recorded on a cheap four-track held together with sellotape. You'll note the Ashtray aesthetic is already firmly in place. So, thankfully, was the sellotape.
"Deflection Music For Warheads"
From a little 3" CDR called Heavy Flow Traffic Or Blind Faith and picked by Rob Hayler for your amusement. I have no recollection of what was happening here except that it might have involved the mystical guitar of then-collaborator Chloe Jarvis. Of course, we all remember Mr Bush and Mr Blair's despicable little adventure, which was also hotting up in 2002.
A piece of found art. I tried to tape birdsong on a very cheap and very shoddily designed MP3 player, and this exquisite digital mush came out with no treatment whatsoever. It reminded me of Kiyoshi Mizutani's brilliant work with field recordings and is dedicated to him. The second part is a sequel to "Irons", which I'm pleased to say is also on the box set. Both "Irons" are an attempt to make the glockenspiel sound strange. It's Neil Campbell's pick from Bananaurora, The Yellow Harvest of 2006.
White and crumbly. Chosen by Mr Rollins from The Beak Stuck Out Of The Snow of 2010.
"The Final Hit"
Around 2008, I started recording everything digitally. A duo project with a talented geezer named Bob Testicles circa 1999 collapsed when Bob's digital multitrack recorder broke down in a spectacular haemorrhage of zeros and ones (sounded great but we couldn't tape it alas). We lost everything we'd recorded over 18 months or so. "Fuck digital," I thought, " I'm never using that again." But as the 21st century rolled on, digital became the cheapo option for those on my kinda budget and the old analogue gear either became a non-functioning basement-filler or a high ticket trinket on Ebay.
Back in the cassette days I used all kinds of tricks to get the mangled sound I desired. Everything from recording in the bath to moulding tinfoil over the amps to scouring charity bins for the most decayed looking old cassettes I could find. Getting a mangled sound digitally took some work but I think I'd mastered it by the time we cut this number, which also gets its unique tone from the fact that I was recovering from an infection and one of my fingers was very inflamed and painful. "Mangled digits" is truly the key here (ouch). Its from a CDR called Cloud Come Cadaver from 2012 and Mr Hayler chose it.
One of my all time favourites here picked by Pete. I have no recollection of recording this or how I got the very odd sounds on it. There seems to have been some frenzied playing of an untuned zither which my old next door neighbour had made as a school project and donated to me. He'd varnished it after putting the strings on so they are varnished too, hence its unique tonal qualities. Great instrument, I still have it. This tune was recorded for one side of an intended 7" with a track called "Marxfactor" on the flip. It would have made for a very long and possibly uncuttable 7" which is why I guess it never happened. It came out in 1998 instead on a CDR full of reject-a-ments called Fast Angels Vol.1 and released by a Staalplaat sub-label. Fast Angels disappear back into the clouds before you can glimpse them, that kind of thing.
"Miss Goldenrod 1977"
This isn't from the forthcoming box set but is from the new LP/CD on VHF Records called A Shimmering Replica. I'm always more excited by recent things anyway so fuck you this is my pick. Melanie O'Dubhshlaine plays electronic drums and synths. I play electric piano, guitar and electrickery. Hope you like it and thanks for listening.
A Shimmering Replica is released VHF Records. Greatest Imaginary Hits 1994–2014 4xCD box is out before the end of 2015 on Goldenlab Recordings. Melanie O'Dubhshlaine's Deformed Vowels is out now on Club Papers/Golden Lab Records