Yesterday and Tomorrow’s Shells, the first release from Ash Bowie’s solo project Libraness, has an indefinable strangeness about it. Hypnotic but beautiful, Libraness combines world beats, electronics, and acoustic instruments into an inspired mix of styles and sound that shouldn’t work but does. This results in a complex musical environment that almost resembles a less dramatic version of Nine Inch Nails while still maintaining complete independence from any current genre or style. Lyrically and musically diverse, Libraness seems dissonant at first, but there is a thread of unity running through Yesterday and Tomorrow’s Shells. For all of its strangeness, it feels complete.
Opening the appropriately titled “Intro,” Yesterday and Tomorrow’s Shells begins its trippy exploration of sound. From the instrumental “Toy Planetarium” to the elegant “Hit the Horizon” Libraness manages to encompass a wide range of emotions through music, often in the same song. The touchingly exquisite “No Separation” bears a mark of sadness about it, while dark “Grief Mechanism” is both engaging and painful to listen to. The fascinating combinations of sounds create a dreamlike mood that is at once familiar and foreign.
Libraness’ lyrics seem at first to just be there to add extra interest to the music, but Ash Bowie has a unique perceptiveness about situations. “There’s a light in the night…how can you fight I see you, I hear you sigh” he whispers in the haunting “You are My Foreign Film.” Bowie’s tender voice even makes lines like “If they shut our little store down, we’ll have to make the journey downtown” from “24 hrs.” sound intriguing. But it’s obvious that Libraness’ focus is not lyrical, as evidenced by the several instrumental tracks featured on Yesterday and Tomorrow’s Shells.
Libraness’ Yesterday and Tomorrow’s Shells is not quite a masterpiece, but it is quite close to it. It is a rare thing that music so different and varied comes together in an appealingly original way. Libraness has created something entirely unmatched in music today, and has the potential to become a landmark in years to come.