Axxa/Abraxas – Axxa/Abraxas
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Long the hermetic solo project of Georgia-based art student Ben Asbury, Axxa/Abraxas existed first as sonic companion pieces to Asbury's psychedelic visual art. Various locally distributed CD-R and cassette releases give way to this self-titled debut album, recorded and released with help from New York friends Jarvis Taveniere playing bass and rolling tape and Aaron Neveu drumming. Both Taveniere and Neveu also do time in the rootsy indie group Woods, and the dusty stamp of that band shows up on several of Asbury's tunes here. On "Going Forth" he assumes a bit of Woods vocalist Jeremy Earl's softly straining falsetto, while "I Almost Fell..." infuses the menaced post-Grateful Dead indie pop approach of bands like Woods and White Fence with a more acidic edge of brittle synths and caustic noise growing closer and closer to the foreground as the song spins on. Much of the album volleys between breezy, stoned acoustic moods like the lighter-than-air "Same Signs" and dark, paranoid undercurrents, as with the winding acid rock-modeled explosions of "So Far Away," with Byrds-like vocal harmonies battling constant spaced-out fuzz guitar leads. As with any meeting of pop and noise, Axxa/Abraxas can feel somewhat at odds with itself at times. Sometimes coming off like a lost folk-rock album from the dawn of psychedelia (as with the especially wide-eyed-sounding "Painted Blue"), it's never long before Asbury drops creeping sheets of disorienting noise and mind-warping guitar leads into what first seem like unassuming blasts of lighthearted pop. These constant contrasts do much more to add to the final product than they confuse things, keeping the songs engaging and strange instead of trailing off into well-worn nostalgia for the imagined glory of '60s rock.