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“Ashera” is an Australian artist whose ambient productions are very much in the “classic” spirit of Brian Eno. You will hear the by-now-familiar sounds of Ambient in Cobalt 144 : rhythm-less floating synthesizer or electric guitar tones, sighing and whispering wordless female voices, tinkling or rattling percussion accents, heavily filtered electric piano notes, bells, and environmental sounds. All the tracks are soft in volume, designed to be a kind of “audible incense” to perfume the environment.
Even though the style of these pieces doesn’t offer a lot of variety or change, and they are (as it were) designed to be ignored, it is worth listening more closely to one or two of the tracks, because Ashera has added some smooth and pleasant tone-colors to his delicate mix. His chord choices are an ultra-diluted tincture of modernist jazz. Track 6, “144,” which is longer than the others at about 13 minutes, is especially pretty. It drifts along on sonic shimmer with a few moments of heavier percussion and gongs, and at some points actually gets loud. Another longer track, number 8, “Ultima Thule,” has a slightly “darker” feel but is also good listening. (Note: I think these are the titles; this album has the most unreadable type I’ve ever encountered on a CD cover.)
Like a lot of the more successful “soft ambient” sounds, these pieces give the feeling of gazing into a reflecting pool of water, which is occasionally stirred by wind, or by fish just below the surface. Ashera’s music certainly does its job of calming the listener down; in fact, it can get downright sleep-inducing. It’s best to listen to this album late at night, or at least at some time when you don’t mind slipping off into dreamland.