As we approach Deep In The Valley here in a couple of weeks, I realize that I’m remiss in shining a proper light on Ashley Paul’s excellent new album. Long a fixture in free jazz circles, Paul has found a way to let the genre permeate the skin of several others within the bounds of her work. Along with RAY (Otto Willberg on double bass and voice, Yoni Silver on bass clarinet and viola) her latest album is winding its way through the dry ice drifts of avant-jazz and the stark air of post-punk, letting space carve its way into her compositions in a way that’s riddled with loneliness and longing. The record, aptly titled I Am Fog, is shrouded, hidden away from the listener behind her smoked glass approach. The listener is prodded and bristled with the hackles of her sax work, though once through her abrasions, the soft tenor of her voice is inviting and at oddly at ease.
The contrast between pillowy compositions and barbed trappings lies at the heart of the album. Ashley is always holding the listener at arms length, though clearly reticent to do so. The sadness that creeps into the songs sours like buttermilk and lemon, curdling its way through the soul with a caustic burn that comes on slow. Once settled in that ache is hard to shake, letting its hold grow stronger as the album wears on. Sorrow mixes with her patience, though, giving the album a kind of grace that’s hovers on the air with a scent that’s pungent and pervasive. I Am Fog isn’t an album that lends itself to blending into the background, begging to be addressed and abated with each passing song.
Support the artist. Buy it HERE.