“Can you see right through our dreams
I’m troubled by our degree of dependency”
—“Computer Age”, Nate Ashley
Hi, Nate. There’s a certain basic irony in reviewing the album of someone who believes thus, in a magazine that depends on being seen on computer screens.
The multi-instrumentalist plays the 15 songs on Darling I’m Your Devil almost completely unassisted, apart from drum programming on two or three tracks and clarinet on another. The homemade nature of Darling I’m Your Devil is betrayed by “Vehicle of Groove” and “Ana”. On the first song you can hear a doorbell early in the mix (maybe deliberate, I prefer to believe someone dropped by unexpectedly during the recording) and on the second you can practically see Ashley sitting alone at his keyboard. Yet, for all its low budget, there is a sparkle of inventiveness to this album at its best that makes a strong argument for Ashley as a talent that should be nurtured.
His gift for arrangement is obvious throughout, with very few songs sounding like the same old thing over again thanks to the variety of unconventional instrumentation. “Lonely Lover” uses what sounds like a children’s whistle and a quaintly funky bass to tell a tale of . . . well, of masturbation. You want me to lie? But the funny thing is, I didn’t even realize that ‘til just now when I checked the lyrics. In fact, without recourse to the lyric sheet, I can only tell you what a few of Ashley’s lyrics are about. Soft, delicate guitars mix with machine-funk rhythms (and a ticking sequencer used for effect on “Computer Age”) with vocals not prominent in the mix. To be honest, this is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s not that Ashley isn’t a good singer, it’s just that his voice lacks a certain command. I might suggest that he needs a Lennon, a Crosby and Stills, even a Dolenz to be his vocal instruments or additions. Nicely felt, tasteful alternative folk-pop/rock is Ashley’s style, and he could use a great, or at least a better singer to get his messages home.
This album comes with an advisory that “This music was intended to be listened to at night”. I have kept that part of the bargain. The results are light yet paradoxically non-illuminating. Ashley is clearly sitting on masses of talent, but he is a little too refined in his performance to make this release something truly important.