A very recent discovery for the blog, Ashtrey is an impassioned New Zealander who specialises in heavily affected, robotic vocal patterns over spidery rhythms. His new project Clairvoyant is an essential listen that will unquestionably elevate his already sizable fanbase to new heights.
The sound of Ashtrey’s music seems to stem from cyber-dystopian themes, his vocals blurring the line between sullen, knuckle-dragging despondency and stilted, programmed roboticism. Opener ‘Used As A Tool’ sees the rapper get deep into his emotions, his lyrics angry and frustrated as he laments a failed relationship in a disturbing, fantastical revenge tale. Disturbing samples of screams and distorted voices only enhance the feeling of anxiety and terror that Ashtrey and his producers so easily generate. ‘Miserable’ sees the rapper hop on a more uptempo creation, the creeping, insectoid beats falling back only to be replaced by whirring, mechanical trap. Throughout these songs Ashtrey’s vocals remain a constantly droning presence, his production choices forming the lonely, increasingly alien terrain that his cyborg raps stomp into subservience.
From single ‘Leavin’ On A Whim’ onwards, the second arc of Clairvoyant begins. ‘Leavin’ details suicidal thoughts (Drinking wine, ‘fore we blow this big ol’ head of mine’), and generally provides an insight into the artists very troubled brain. Ashtrey’s vocals grow in intensity hear, his earworm hook becoming shriller as his passion truly begins to emerge. This song provides a solid preview for the vocal acrobatics ‘Told Me’ (which features the sole guest appearance courtesy of Eric North) offer in abundance. North’s distorted screams tear the track apart before the man himself can offer his take on one of many brilliant Cxrpse beats on Clairvoyant, the duo’s wildly different approaches contrasting beautifully and chaotically.
From here, things only get more insane. ‘Stay Outside Freestyle’ is barely recognisable as the work of a human being, as the raps are submerged in so much reverb. ‘Tread On Me’ is more melodic, featuring the most memorable songwriting of any Clairvoyant track. ‘Debris Through My Air’ is practically a ballad, despite the sometimes monstrous vocal inflections the track is genuinely beautiful. Grayera deserves a special mention for their production here, it’s both immensely weighty and perfectly breezy. There’s a few bigger names amongst the producer cast, namely Greaf and Cat Soup on the penultimate cut ‘Lurkin’ For Firearms’, but for the most part the project is assembled from the work of largely under the radar beatmakers. Its sound is cutting edge, every song sounds appropriately massive thanks to healthy mixing that brings out the best in both Ashrey’s manic performance and the uber-crisp, apocalyptic beats. Listen to the project in full here.
– Chris (@108mics)