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Ashley Reaks and Joe Hakim - Cultural Thrift

  by Lisa Torem

published: 5 / 2 / 2016

Ashley Reaks and Joe Hakim - Cultural Thrift
Label: Ashley Reaks
Format: CD


Unique eighth album from Harrogate collage artist Ashley Reaks which finds him collaborating with poet Joe Hakim

Ashley Reaks calls himself a “genre-hopping musician” but that description barely scratches the surface: This Harrogate singer-songwriter-composer seems to be just as comfortable singing a bittersweet original ballad about a libido crushing partnership as he does playing a barbed-wire dirge on the bass, over which he layers celestial harmonies. ‘Before Koresh’ and ‘Planet Griot’ preceded his current and eighth album ‘Cultural Thrift’, which is a collaboration with poet Joe Hakim. When Reaks and Hakim teamed up previously, they depicted some harrowing and comical scenarios through a beat poetry narrative and cool backing sounds by Reaks and long-time colleague and singing sensation, Norwegian Maria Jardardottir. Dave Kemp has also been a mainstay on Reak’s recordings. He plays accordion and “voodoo guitar”, but it’s his sultry, improvisatory saxophone fills that lend a noir quality to Reak’s in-your-face instrumentals. The lyrics are penned by Hakim and performed, but Reaks doesn’t hold back on the bass, keyboards and electric guitars: the arrangements go from ambient to dreamy to ceremonial to demanding to Philip Glass-like and back again. “Poetry makes a mockery of us all/Watch our quiz shows and play video-games instead,” Hakim spews at one point. The narrative is stream-of-consciousness and, although it’s easy to get into a dream state because Hakim’s voice goes from mellow and crisp to menacing and the music supports it glowingly, you’ll enjoy the album more if you give the words a sincere chance. There are eight tracks: ‘Nature Poem’, ‘Albert Hoffman’s Bicycle’, ‘To Let’, ‘The Principles of Paranoia’, ‘Special Brew Blues’, ‘Imposter Syndrome’, ‘Everyday’ and ‘The Way It Is’ and each message conveys a gritty, urban truth. ‘To Let’ conveys a desperate loneliness: “I’ve never really had a home/Just a series of rooms in which I’ve stayed/Rooms in which ideas have played/Rooms in which dreams have decayed.” The phrases in ‘The Principles of Paranoia’ not only define bitterness and entertain metaphor - “Trust evaporates, and the night descends into a game of poker without the cards…” - but they melt together as Hakim ticks off a series of erratic emotions whilst Reaks and his crew paint colour and dynamics over their very essence. “My mind is a clenched fist/Punching the wall after crawling out of my pit…” Hakim complains through gritted teeth on ‘The Way It Is’. His voice remains restrained, he never screams, yet the tension subtly mounts and something inside you, the listener, erupts. You, the listener, want to console him and make his turbulent, living Hell vanish, but the cryptic messages don’t require pasty condolences or mock justification. They’re just strong, independent thoughts trying to get by, without, hopefully, leaving too many casualties behind. Joe Hakim and Ashley Reaks have a beautiful and transparent way of communicating on ‘Cultural Thrift’, but the tragic innocence of Reaks’ earlier albums like ‘Melancholia’ is also an imposing factor.

Track Listing:-
1 Nature Poem
2 Albert Hofmann's Bicycle
3 To Let
4 The Principles of Paranoia
5 Special Brew Blues
6 Imposter Syndrome
7 Everyday
8 The Way It Is

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