‘Compassion Fatigue (1-8)’ is a concept album of sorts. Or, moreover, an album whose structure is determined by a set of self-imposed rules, as explained on Reaks’ Bandcamp page: ‘‘Compassion Fatigue (1-8)’ came out of an idea to write an album where the first song had to be exactly one minute long and in the key of A, the second song two minutes long and in the key of B (or B Min) etc....’
As befits the cover art (collage works are another thread of polyartist Reaks’ diverse talents), it’s anything but straightforward musically or lyrically, and if anything, goes several steps further into the realms of strange than 2013’s ‘Power Failure’. The title track is a punchy piece of pirate punk-folk looping; ‘The World the Dead have Made For Us’ shifts into edgy pop territory, and the strange stylistic hybrids are only just beginning. Dark twists on fairytales and nursery songs bubble in the cauldron of ‘Cold Body Pussycat’. ‘Wrong ‘Un’ with its jangly chimes and dubby bass is positively breezy, somewhere between reggae and chillwave. It shouldn’t work, but it does.
The last thing you would probably expect in the middle of the choppy, agitated ‘Cot Death Grandmother’ is a soothing lullaby and a saxophone wig-out. At the same time. But then, by the album’s mid-point it should be obvious that Ashley Reaks is all about confounding expectations. And as the tracks get longer, it just gets weirder.
The dark dub of ‘Joyless Joy’ takes some curious lyrical twists to say the least. The 8-minute genre-hopping ‘Disconnected’ marges eastern and Asian elements with ambient and kitchen sink. Yup, it’s all in there.
Despite its eclecticism, ‘Compassion Fatigue (1-8)’ has a definite sense of flow and a trajectory that does follow a certain perverse logic. More than an album, it’s an adventure in audio.
Ashley Reaks Online