impressions of Cheshi’s self title EP
This is less a review and more of my stream.of.consciousness.notes from listening to Cheshi’s first EP about to drop on February 16th. I opt not for a traditional review. When I look at a Rothko painting – I just know that several complex reactions occur internally. The same would apply as I listen to this calibrated maelstrom from this band of Frederick based musicians, fronted by Ashli Cheshire and exponentially amped further by Matthew Jachowski on bass, Trevor Williams on guitar and vocals and Evan Owens on drums – having transitioned in over the past year from his now defunct band, Old Indian.
As the record was being formed, I got a chance to see Cheshi and interview them in May 2016 for BoR. Ashli had difficulty pinning down her band’s sound, but eventually came up with this: heavy. as is heavy emotionally. “Each song is pulling its unique drive depending on what I’m trying to say,” she recounts.
“We have loud and intense moments, we have ethereal moments, ghost moments memory moments, stomping moments…our songs are…this might be strange to say, but like waves. Sometimes they crash over the rocks, and sometimes they form algae.”
So I enter the link that takes me to a preview of the Cheshi EP and close my eyes as I insert headphones and turn the digital dial up.
all that comes to mind immediately, the gestalt, that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
I can’t put my finger on it- the sound of 90’s and 00’s indie rock distilled and imprinted, calibrated waves of dark luminosity followed by a surge of fury. Just a dash of emo (without being entirely emo), a glimmer of post punk, followed by a channelling of dynamic feminist vocal power, a la Lower Dens or a more long distance salute to Bikini Kill that showcases fragility at the edges, sensuality in appropriate doses, and ultimately – rage at the system. I’m also detecting a little Joy Division in it’s DNA. The end result isn’t aping the past but a synthesis, the past crashing into the present to create something sounding very 2017 – nuanced, not sticking to one tone, and completely outraged at a system that allowed a pussygrabbing, racist, and fact-free madman to become commander in chief. The song title “You Don’t Know Safe,” allays that uncertainty in very uncertain times. In “Stones,” you can’t help but feel that stone striking your face for being apart from the norm. From her perspective growing up in West Virginia, Ashli is clear about her gender and identity as a queer, and doesn’t shy away from talking about an unwritten band manifesto on the potential for change, transformation and reversing the layers of ecological damage done in her home state, both literally and spiritually. That confrontation with right wing ideology draws in more power and energy to the set of songs. But this isn’t necessarily a political album per se, but rather fits in as part of the weave of the EP, a subtext amongst other sentiments and emotions swirling and coming to the surface.
Waves. That’s what has enveloped me listening to the EP. It will envelope the listener and it will seduce, entrance and ultimately singe. If music is one weapon to fight the tides of authoritarianism, this EP is arriving just in time.
recording by Mystery Ton Studio
Watch this gorgeous and bizarre video directed by Samuel Tressler IV, the first single to be released from the EP titled Bug Dance
CHESHI EP Songs:
You Don’t Know Safe
Release date: February 16 at the Frederick Music Showcase v.3 at the Weinberg Theater. Cheshi will be headlining (I think). Stitch Early is doing a set of his underground hip hop from his EP “The Great Compromise.” Bad Seed Rising – youngsters from the Frederick Rock School and WARP tour alums will also do a set. Guys in Thin Ties -an 80’s cover band will also perform (80’s cover band? don’t ask…)
Also Ashli Cheshi will be doing a solo acoustic set at Flying Dog’s Tap Room – part of Frederick Playlist’s thurs shows at Flying Dog. Show starts at 6-8pm AND will be paired with a rad art show by her partner in crime Ashley Hoffman. Check in for that FB events page here.
Extra Time: another full house at AREA 31 for the Fantastic Planets screening! WHAT a trippy film -but so creative and that SOUNDTRACK was mind blowing. Some lucky so and so (I think it was the guy responsible for curating the Future Sounds EDM nights at Cafe Nola) won a raffle for the soundtrack LP.
1st run cinema alert : Friday Area 31 screens Mifune: The Last Samurai – Akira Kurosawa’s favorite actor who was simply bonkers on the big screen -that’s one not to miss. We’ll probably post something about this closer to friday. The following monday Cinemondays East will screen Lola —so happy there’s momentum for indie cinema in Frederick – let’s keep that going! Check out Cinemondays East film lineup at their FB page– the schedule is up for February and March. Me thinks Western Machines will sponsor a Cinemondays screening this spring….
Extra Extra Time:
Frederick’s own Chad Wilkes (and contributor to Western Machines for his perspective on being at Standing Rock), the ecologically minded and hopeful magazine publisher of a concept magazine he calls “Slow Down Magazine” is now in Mexico. He is there as part of his Slow Down Magazine Ecological Tour. Here’s Chad in his own words
We are doing some incredible illuminating work in México at the moment. Working with young bird surveyors and protectors of wild land, gaining deep perspective from people who have seen the effects of climate change in their lifetime, and are creating peace in the current climate of separation with our southern brothers and sisters.
I will be heading back to the nature preserve to spend time working with a family whose lineage stretches back thousands of years in that small area.
If you know anyone who is frustrated by the current state of relations in the world, some American dollars coming to Mexico may just be medicine for both sides involved.
Visit Slow Down Magazine Go Fund Me site. Namaste