Expressionism gives primacy to the emotions. It is an explorative, subjective awareness of anxiety, sordidness, and disorder beneath surface order, well-being, and beauty.' - John C. and Dorothy L. Crawford, Expressionism in 20th Century Music These opening lines from a textbook describing an often overlooked and less understood artistic movement of the early 20th century are a startlingly apt description of the recent release by composer Dwight Ashley, Four. Nearly a hundred years after the seminal works of such expressionist composers as Arnold Schoenberg and Charles Ives, Ashley has taken the ambient/electronic sound palette and produced a nakedly neo-expressionistic reinterpretation of the genre that is at once exquisitely beautiful and profoundly disturbing. Beneath the deliciously gorgeous surface serenity of Ashley's compositions is an edgy discordance that suggests all is not well in this otherwise pretty world. A subtle intimation of malaise on Four's ethereal first track progresses into detachment, alienation, and finally psychosis in subsequent tracks, culminating in an arresting, hallucinatory dirge that sounds eerily like the soundtrack to an execution. If there were any question concerning Ashley's intent to provide the listener with a psychologically provocative experience, the cover art for Four - a colorless, mangled hand jutting forth from a bucolic backdrop, where distorted clouds intimate something about to go awry - leaves no doubt. True to expressionist principles, Ashley has crafted his music to seduce listeners into travelling through his psyche, and in turn, their own.
To play the media you will need to either update your browser to a recent version or update your version of Flash Player.