Review: The Use of Ashes - White Nights: Glowing Lights (2009)


tuoa_wnglartist: The Use of Ashes
release: White Nights: Glow­ing Lights
format: LP, CD
year of release: 2009
label: tone­float
dur­a­tion: 45:37

From Nijme­gen in the Neth­er­lands hails The Use of Ashes, a band con­sist­ing of the broth­ers Peter and Simon van Vliet, and Maarten Scher­ren­burg. The first two were act­ive in the early 80’s in the avant­garde wave band Mekanik Kom­mando. Their style has changed over the years though, and this latest album (second in the White Nights series) is firmly in the realm of psy­che­delic folk.

For me, this album is some­what of a mixed bag. The over­all sound is rich and won­der­ful; a blend of folk with exper­i­mental and dron­ish parts, and above all a great ear for detail and soph­ist­ic­ated sound design. It reminds me per­haps per­haps most of Twelve Thou­sand Days in terms of style, though The Use of Ashes lacks the appeal of a unique and excel­lent vocal­ist like Martyn Bates. This is at least in part com­pensated for by the lav­ish­ness of the sound.

The main turn-off for me, how­ever, is that a num­ber of tracks on White Nights: Glow­ing Nights (such as the opener and “Stranger in Para­dise”) wax some­what too sugary-sweet, expressed in the lyr­ics, vocals, and gen­eral atmo­sphere. It’s some­thing of an acquired taste, per­haps, and part of artistic expres­sion. It might not bother other people, but it doesn’t do much for me per­son­ally. What is clear to me, how­ever, is that the band’s main strength lies in com­pos­i­tion and sound design, rather than text or vocals. This can be heard in some of the high­light tracks like the excel­lent misty neo­folk of “Fall­ing from the Sky” or the folky drones of “9 Glow­ing Lights”.

Alto­gether, White Nights: Glow­ing Lights is a pleas­ant album that fits neatly into the psych side of the tone­float roster, with artists like Por­cu­pine Tree and Sand Snow­man. The spectre of Pink Floyd is ever present. If you’re open to a well-succeeded Dutch psych folk album with a bright and sweet atmo­sphere, this is well worth your atten­tion. Per­son­ally, I can’t help but feel that it is a bit less inter­est­ing and ori­ginal than the stuff that went on in the Mekanik Kom­mando days.

Reviewed by O.S.

Track­list:

1. Mor­gen­stern (The Umbrella Jig­saw Man) (2:26)
2. Fall­ing from the Sky (5:32)
3. Stranger in Para­dise (1:55)
4. Forever Comes with the Morn­ing (1:55)
5. Zeit (1:14)
6. Kiss the Light (2:10)
7. Dark White Planet (2:43)
8. Dongal Tale­teller (Part 2) (1:04)
9. White Night (0:31)
10. King of the Moon (0:53)
11. Lazy Daisy Day (3:07)
12. Eidolon (Days Are Darker Nights) (4:53)
13. The Sky-Cracked Chil­dren (0:58)
14. The Prince With the Golden Hair (3:07)
15. Stil­ler Berg (2:30)
16. 9 Glow­ing Lights (7:35)
17. White Dream (2:00)
18. End­stille (1:04)