Cultural Bulletin
Exploring Film, Music, Design, Art and the Wider Cultural Themes that Surround Them

IN REVIEW: ROBERT ASHLEY - AUTOMATIC WRITING

One of the great albums of the 20th Century. Automatic Writing is a tender expose of the human voice, revealing the softness and radiance of abstract verbal pronounciation. Its strangeness/uniqueness can easily lead the listener to view the record as only this - an avant-garde experiment in speech patterns. However, the composition, textures, scale and musicality of the record all contribute to the whole experience.

Ashley had a mild form of Tourette’s which is interesting as the record communicates a release, an absolute inner expression fundamental to the male voice that duets with a more assured female counterpart. It is a vocalised liberation that is vulnerable in its strangeness and ‘automatic’ in its seemingly natural and unconscious delivery. How would we express ourselves verbally if we forgot social convention? Are there sounds inside you that you don’t let out? If so, why?

Depending on how the record is engaged with, a narrative emerges between the homogenous interchange of the male and female voices. They sound like friends, lovers, parent and child, fictional and real or invisible to eachother. There is an ambient stasis that emerges in moments of the record where this relationship peter out and we are left with tranquil space. The distant faded sound of music sounds more like a memory desperate to the voices whilst linking beautifully. 

It’s a bit like ASMR made in the 1970’s (and without the cringe). The sounds of tongues and mouths are clearly audible. As lips are moistened and breath is uninciated around warm speech, a close intimacy is established that comes only with proximity between two people. AG