CD-R, self-release, 2008
Although there is a definite and undeniable level of synthetic sound generation present in Ashley Reaks’ “Melancholia”, it is difficult, if not impossible, to term this recording as electronica of any sort. Rather, it is more of an exercise in 90’s-style Indie rock, in the vein of The Pixies or Nick Cave, with overtones of David Bowie and Gary Numan, performed with the aid of electronic instrumentation.
Like that of the artists mentioned above, the music of Ashley Reaks is uncomplicated (yet still technically accomplished), listenable and unlikely to offend anybody. It even carries enough of a “pop” vibe to please a large proportion of the general listening public. But, make no mistake, it is not a happy album by any means… As the title, “Melancholia” may or may not have implied. Tracks like the spoken word “She Burns” or the first cut of the album, “Sucker For Punishment” speak volumes regarding the disproportionate degree of dissatisfaction with life, relationships and society that defines Mr Reaks’ outlook on the world. Even the upbeat nature of “I’ve Got Everything (that nobody wants)” can’t hide the fact that it is two minutes of painful personal confession hidden behind layers of high-tempo synthrock.
Despite the composer’s insistence that his driving force is similar to the punk ethos of creating art without the added benefit of ability, a natural musical talent does shine through. With further training and experience, Ashley Reaks could become a force to be reckoned with – but the question then arises: would this spoil the raw simplicity and energy that now suffuses his work? Perhaps moving further from his “punk” roots would spell the end of what is currently a fairly unique and enjoyable sound.
There is great appeal to be found on “Melancholia”: a fair variety of sounds and styles, clever, impassioned vocals and a wonderfully cynical outlook combine to create something that is, while not my usual taste, very listenable indeed.
— David vander Merwe