Intention. The thing I'd always felt deep down about Asva recordings was that sense of... Intention. Good as they have been they rang hollow, as if the truth of what nature born those tracks was hidden behind a venear of having to 'be' a definable thing, genre specific, a way to 'belong' somewhere in the midst of other musics. The intention behind Presences Of Absences has been to make something real and unbiased, an honest effort at reproducing what is Asva's nature as a band and as individuals. Not heavy in the traditional sense of 'heavy' but emotive and powerful, not quirky, not elusive or exclusive, but a different breed entire. Presences Of Absences is about sincerity, goodwill and compassion, honesty, hard work and in the deepest sense, thanks and reflection at the end of the day. It's a discussion in music utilizing traditional elements (liturgical, plain chant, tintinnabuli musics, folk and gospel musics, acoustic organ and wind instruments, etc) and contemporary electric instrumentation and playing methods to expose our shared origins, our pasts, presents and futures and the common thread passing through our relationships to all of it... Presences Of Absences is a big work.
P of A began as a singularly personal project. I had envisioned creating a solo work and had recorded the basis for these tracks (Reed and electric organs, electric bass and guitar, bells) over the course of perhaps a hundred and fifty early morning sessions in my rehearsal room. As the concept grew and after a lot of deliberation I realized that involving other creative minds to form a true collaborative we could, together, could push P of A into a whole new arena with considerable added dimension. Greg Gilmore, Toby Driver, and Jake Weller are musicians and composers of whom I have long admired and feel possess an intuitive sensitivity towards music and who-like myself- are not afraid of exposing themselves as truly individual voices unencumbered by any need to 'be' anything namable. Presences Of Absences speaks the naked truth about it's creators and ultimatelyabout us as people.
- G. Stuart Dahlquist Feb 2011
Musique Machine (5 stars)
Foxy Digitalis Interview
Hammer Smashed Sound
G. Stuart Dahlquist (founding member of Burning Witch and Sunn O))) – erm – how to close parentheses after THAT bandname – ) is soon to deliver to the world the third ASVA record. Whereas the previous records featured Secret Chief 3’s Trey Spruance and various member of Master Musicians of Bukkake, this new work is built upon stripped-down instrumentation – creaking reed organs, bass guitar, Greg Gilmore’s drums, trumpet, and sublime vocal work by the aforementioned Toby Driver. Dahlquist’s composition has always been unique unto itself, having to my ears very little in common with a doom aesthetic save for its patient pacing, and here he may well have produced on of 2011’s masterpieces – his compositions unwind slowly, across modulations that soothe and intrigue with a melancholic thrust – if it sounds like anything, one can hear shades of Robert Wyatt, Arvo Part, and Radiohead’s more ambient constructs, and yet these only provide an entry-point into Dahlquist’s singular and compelling soundworld. I urge every reader to seek this out upon its release.
Only on their 3rd album, the continuing evolution of G Stuart Dalquist's Asva is joy to behold. Their debut, Futurists, marked a significant development in the then burgeoning field of Ambient Metal pioneered by Earth, whose Dylan Carlson was a member of the first Asva line-up, and taken to new extremes by Sunn)))). The incorporation of Jessica Kenney's clarion vocal and Troy Swanson's Hammond organ into its solemn crawl added an angelic sublimity and earthy warmth respectively, paving the way for 2008's What you don't Know is Frontier. It ws a gloriously cathartic exploration of grief whose heaviness felt somehow human rather than purely mythic, distinguishing it from from the theatrical witchery of , say, Sunn))))'s Black One.
Presences feels like a new dawn of sorts, but then so did Futurists and Frontier. Presences could be ambient Metal's response to Talk Talk's Laughing Stock-Dalquist is a Mark Hollis fan, and there's comparably contemplative air breathing through even the more riff-based numbers here, and there are times when Dalquist seems to reach back to some of the sources that inspired Hollis. The organ work for example occasionally hints at Steve Winwood's Traffic days, and that can't be said of many groups who feature an ex-member of Burning Witch.
To date Asva have benefited from Dalquists rigorous process of addition and subtraction, altering line-ups from album to album. The recruitment of Toby Driver on vocals further expands the band's scope sonically and emotionally. His falsetto invests 'Birds' with a graceful androgyny comparable to Anthony Hegarty's, as it blends with tracks voluminous drone before poking melodic holes in what sounds like a decelerated Terry Riley circa Shri Camel. The folding in of Ora DEll Graham's rendition of 'Shortenin' Bread' from the Alan Lomax archives blends delicacy to the title track, which punctuates wave upon blissful wave of organ with crashing guitars. NWO Rising closes the album on a note of determination, its initial drone essaying a stillness born of stoicism before reverting to a defensive stance as the riff crashes in ahead of a cinematic fade. Here Asva maintain their poise while facing down the uncertain future. Brave.