Blackest Ever Black presents To Make A Fool Ask, And You Are The First, the latest – and, for us, greatest – full-length entry in Ashtray Navigations’ uniquely important, uniquely sprawling – possibly sentient and self-multiplying – discography.
It picks up where the nerve-damaged exotica of 2015’s A Shimmering Replica left off…acerbic “surf” guitar and synthetic salt-breeze fit for the Tropic of Yorkshire. Instant immersion in a potent, pungent psychedelia that feels equal parts cosmic and aquatic. What Todd wrenches out of his instrument these days is a language unto itself (perhaps it always was)… a helical, ecstatic, grieving howl…a (super)natural efflorescence, beyond earthly description or transcription…ur-rock and post-everything. But equal emphasis is given here to pulsating machine rhythms and lush keyboard textures, with killer contributions from longtime fellow traveller Mel O’Dubhshlaine.
There were pre-echoes of all this in the recent(ish) Fluctuants and Aero Infinite: but To Make A Fool feels like the culmination, or the fullest expression, of something which was only glimpsed in those earlier works. The side-long ‘Spray Two’ – gently eddying string-pads gradually slashed to all f***k with fraught piano improvisations – is a masterpiece in its own right. At its delirious peak, the whole thing boils over into brooding, arpeggiated noir-techno – Michael Mann’s steadicam roaming Leeds’ B-roads, some kind of tangerine nightmare – before finally cooling into a bleary starfield of pure and sumptuous hypno-tone. This LP is a trip, in the most skull-splitting, soul-crinkling sense of the word, but it soothes and heals as well. A circular and transformative journey to the other side of the underneath and a landmark recording from one of the most adept and visionary nodes in Britain’s freakout underground.