HMS Ash is a bedroom indie-rock band (bedroom indie?), based in Adelaide, Australia. Their first release Songs for Sinking is an experimental debut about validating the way people feel after experiencing trauma. The three-man band features Rory Hellwig (vocals/guitar/tape loops), Thomas Fenner (bass/backing vocals/synth) and Axel Heinrich (drums/backing vocals), as well as three other artists on trumpet, clarinet and backing vocals. HMS Ash got their start in high school, then known as the Bad Boy Teenager Club. Playing live shows, the trio went under the name Mum Said Yes. Musical influences include the groove of Mac DeMarco, the lo-fidelity of Modest Mouse and the atmosphere of Mount Eerie. Songs for Sinking is described as a “groovy, lo-fi indie album that is equal parts atmospheric and experimental.” Their next album is already in the works, as the group makes plans to record sometime in the second half of the year.
“Grooving in the Goo” sounds just like that – groovy. My first impression of this one makes me think of the Velvet Underground meeting up with The Lovin’ Spoonful, but with less rock and pop and a more psychedelic vibe. “Between Waves” starts out with wave sounds and some guy narrating things about dreams, and that’s it. “Mr. Woolworths” begins with a fast tempo a few bars in, and then drops down to a slow and playful beat. The bass line and guitar carry the main melody in this echoing, jangly number. Heinrich’s taps a rhythm on the snare rim and hi-hat in a dynamic way – each member partaking in some kind of jam fest. “Tarot” offers a funky off beat and a guitar sound that sounds like summertime, along with a trumpet played by James Chapman and backing vocals by Alex Olle. For me, this one jived together so well – I liked it a lot.
“Dreamlike Days” definitely makes use of the band’s lo-fi interest and I think that without the way in which this song was produced, I don’t think it would be as enjoyable or charming. I mean, every instrument just evoked a mood. Oh yeah, this one has trumpet in it, too. “Rains of Yaegi, Pt. 2” starts off with hard rain sounds, muffled talking and humming from somewhere. “Masquerade” was a fun song to listen to, simply because of the juxtaposition of the three main instruments and the clarinet, played by featured artist Seb Walker. This one was quite eclectic – styles of art rock, jazz and lounge all come through. Another one of my favorites no doubt. I thought the most mysterious song on the album was “Part of It” probably because the band just has a peculiar sound and approach to this tune. My closest comparison would be early Pink Floyd with Syd Barrett.
“Snow” ends the album in a low, atmospheric way. The bass drum and brushes slowly move a beat while a synth and a Theremin take hold of an eerie sounding melody. It’s quite an instrumental trip. The band briefly kicks up a faster tempo and then switches back into a trippy ambiance. Brian Wilson probably would’ve wanted to do more of this kind of thing as a side project, but these kinds of songs didn’t go over well on ‘60s pop music radio. Well, according to his father anyway.
For the most part, HMS Ash is a highly creative band that give themselves a lot of room for experimentation. Songs for Sinking is no exception. I might add that the album’s title is very apt, as I felt like their songs put me in a mellow, “sinking” kind of mood.
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