This 2-CD album, produced in Australia by Anthony Asher Wright and a couple of guest performers, is well within the “traditional” spirit of Brian Eno’s original concept of ambient music. It is designed not to intrude, but to exist in the aural background of the listener’s consciousness, and enhance calm or meditative moods. The album cover says “Play at lower level; do not operate machinery or drive vehicles.” This sums it up pretty well. “Ashera’s” sounds feature, in different tracks, whispers of synthesizer chords, gently tinkling bells, Australian environmental sounds, and crooning female voices. It’s soft, really soft. Even if you turn the volume up, it’s still soft.
One of “Ashera’s” good points is that he picks good chords to float in. He likes modern jazz harmony, or perhaps a bit of French impressionism, all of it ever-so-drifting and ethereal, with that smooth shimmer that makes this kind of ambient so easy to listen to. There are a few slightly dissonant chords, which have a somewhat Roach-like feel to them, but even Steve Roach at his quietest was never THIS quiet. And “Ashera” stays well away from any evocation of either deserts, aborigines, or space; his track titles mostly allude to landscapes or nature.
Some of the more interesting tracks on the first CD are “Lullaby for Mother Earth,” (which has a lot of wordless vocals on it), “Noosa Rain,” and “Flowers of Colours.” The second CD standouts are “Cyclic Balance” and “Astral Travel,” as well as the mysterious and subtle (and sometimes so soft as to be almost inaudible) “Sotavento.” These pieces are not dissonant enough to be “dark” ambient; perhaps “twilight ambient” would be a better term.
If you have listened through both CD’s in succession, you will definitely be softened up, lulled, and half-asleep by the end. “Ashera” then wakes you up with the last track, an electronic sequencer piece, louder than the rest of the album, called “Spinning Dance of Joy.” With its perky repetitions and rhythms, it gives the listener a gentle jolt back into waking reality.