I ventured out to a show for the first time in over two years since the beginning of the pandemic and the first one since moving to the Houston area. The last show before this was days before the shutdown back in March 2020 curated by Michael Castaneda via Sunwarped, and as a non-participant it was attending Hive Mind in Oakland around January that same year which in itself had a long lapse. Needless to say this was long overdue and finding something like this was very cathartic.
The venue itself is legendary and built by postal worker Jefferson Davis McKissack between 1956 through 1979 and something of a folk-art landmark. After being more or less confounded stumbling into this place for the first time and finding the other stage, the sound was stellar from some familiar faces. An overwhelming feeling of never taking DIY shows and venues for granted again, and it was also a perfect way to help purge the darkness of Uvalde just 300 miles away and some other unfortunate relative circumstances that have come to light.
In other news currently working on another Nina release which is the platform of choice for the foreseeable future. The previous release Inverted Void is sold out. Without getting into the nauseating evangelization of Web3 or decentralized tech (that certainly warrants another post in itself), I’m fully convinced this is path forward for self-sustaining artists. I highly recommend checking them out, founded by peers I highly admire and respect. There will be more very soon…
I was passed along news that Ashley P. Svn unexpectedly passed away peacefully at home last Tuesday afternoon on August 17th, 2021 due to an ongoing illness that had been going on for some time. There aren’t many details right now.
For those that knew Ashley, it wasn’t a secret they had many demons to contend with, but like many talented and troubled artists that wrestle with the abyss they can emerge for brief periods and conjure up a creative energy that otherwise wouldn’t exist. Like many in our very small community, I had fallen out of touch with Ashley over the past three years. Fortunately in my case, I had the privilege of working with them during most of the good and very productive periods in between those troubling times of their life, and helped release their HOM “A$X” LP on my old record label Isounderscore, one of the last two records I released before ceasing operations in 2017. In an odd twist, the roommates that were with Ashley were looking for any contact information and found my friend Thomas Dimuzio’s name on the back of the “A$X” LP he mastered. They contacted him with the message and it was then that Thomas forwarded me the very tragic news.
I remember discovering Ashley’s solo work as HOM sometime around 2014 through my friend Michael Buchanan’s production and remix work on a HOM 12″ EP called “Bound / Somn” released through the Motor Collective based out of Seattle, Washington. Meanwhile, the Bay Area was going through a revival of weird techno and electronic music at the time for a variety of reasons that emerged out of a convergence of phenomena including the popularity of hardware and modular synthesis and an evolution of experimental musicians that worked in noise and non-rhythmic areas picking up drum machines and sequencers again. Naturally, another consequence of this as it is with any genre of music, there was an immediate oversaturation of techno which was a huge turn off to me. However, Ashley’s HOM project had unique and intangible qualities in the music.
As I would discover, they were part of a duo prior to the HOM project called “Thee Source ov Faunation” or an alias as “Thee Source” which appeared to have been influenced by early Psychic TV without the cringeworthy cliches and possessed a magical and mystical quality to the music. After discovering this work it was clear how it bridged into Ashley’s HOM project. After doing my research I directly sought out Ashley and contacted them to meet up. It turned out they were playing a show out in West Oakland and were in the middle of bouncing around between the Pacific Northwest and the Bay Area. We talked at length and struck up a friendship and had asked them if they were interested in doing an LP. From there on we had kept in touch, and I was largely unaware early on that they were going through some difficult times but they would later express that the project would help them significantly and allowed them to focus on their creative work. I never was able to track down physical copies of Thee Source, as they were released in tiny editions and the circulation was very tight. Thankfully some are still online.
Over the years there would be many phone calls out of the blue that were a bit surreal at times with where Ashley’s head would be at. I could tell they were struggling, but always enjoyed the conversations because we shared a common thread and goal of getting the work done and out there because ultimately I believed in the unique imprint of what they were doing. One story that stands out in my mind as I’m still processing everything as I write this is when Ashley revealed that their parents both passed away at a young age but emphasized that they provided them with an experience of growing up in a very creative and artistic household. That was a real gift, and they lived art and breathed it in extreme ways. I had recently become a father for the first time, and they stressed the importance of being there as a father for my little girl and I understood where that came from.
The reality is that our world is smaller than we think it is. I was telling a friend Sunday night who also knew Ashley that the past five years with losing friends in the Ghost Ship tragedy, society ripping itself apart on social media, and a global pandemic has accelerated an isolation and disconnectedness that’s more real than ever. The experimental music community is very small, and those of us that have gone through what we’ve been through have a lingering black pool deeply seated in our unconscious that unfortunately is never going to go away. I never talked about the Ghost Ship tragedy publicly and losing our friends like Barrett Clark. For months I would wake up in the middle of the night with the same nightmare–no sound, black smoke filling a room rapidly, and then waking up. Ashley and I would share stories and anecdotes about the people we lost in that tragedy, and their passing last Tuesday was a complete trigger of that black cloud filling the room. Even with starting a family, working as an engineer in baseball, and moving to Houston Texas during the middle of pandemic, I still feel connected to all of this years later that’s very difficult to articulate to normal people who are outsiders.
Ashley was a very shadowy figure even by experimental music standards, but was very well connected in the underground experimental music scene across the West Coast. I really hope that the people that knew them can celebrate their work in a way I wish I could have done when I was still running the Isounderscore label.