This ‘Advance Base’ article was written by Nick Holden, a GIGsoup contributor
While probing some inspiration from a motel room up in Houghton, on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and writing and recording in his home basement in Illinois, Lo-fi indie outfit of Owen Ashworth Advance Base returns after three years since his debut album, A Shut-In’s Prayer, with Nephew in the Wild. At first glance, it stands as perhaps a lonelier piece, drawing from the nostalgia of his earlier work. In his return to Advance Base, Ashworth’s gentle melodies and beats stripped down to that raw basement quality we loved in earlier Casiotone for the Painfully Alone albums, still prelude his touchy interwoven stories, as can be found in the opening track, whereby a sad lover laments for his girlfriend in “Trisha Please Come home”.
Ashworth discreetly handles his interwoven tales with genuine melancholic modesty. These traits, combined with Owen’s almost conversational voice, again lend to this nostalgia, an established tendency of Owen’s. But, Ashworth includes undertones in his Michigan based narratives concerning themes such as troubled, heartbroken 20 somethings, family life, getting old, and wistful reminiscences of snow paved driveways at Christmas, all sharing an isolated setting in 1970s-80s Michigan. Nephew in the Wild also introduces an unusual brandishing of grim semi-religious satanic verses such as is found in “Pamela”, which contrasts with his subtle predilection to a more tendentious approach at life in his music. “you were born into a world of sin/You are the devil’s kin” and “you have come to fulfill a prophecy, to level humanity, burn everything that you see”. Using ecclesiastical imagery to vent the father’s somewhat subliminal frustration in “Pamela” and in “Summon Satan” forms the emotional intensity at the core of Nephew in the Wild, as distinct from Owen’s previous efforts of post-grad frustrations, and which establish perhaps a new dynamic to Advance Base, that could have been explored further.
The record also touches gradually into fatherhood territory, as Owen handles his character’s issues of child raising with almost melancholic bashfulness, “Troubled water, I got 6 feet in my house/Baby daughter with goldfish in her mouth” (“Christmas in Milwaukee”) . And the riff of this song, “I got trodden off” hangs sorrowfully over an alcohol fuelled lamentation over a lover.
The only track sung by Owen’s friend, Jody Weinmann, in “My Love For You is Like a Puppy Underfoot”, echoes Owen’s personal frustration, “Nothing makes sense to my friends when I describe it” But is also steadily emotionally lighter in both atmospheric texture and lyricism, as she sings, “Better keep you close, you know, you’re my family” and “My love for you is a small thing, my love for you is a real thing”. This track, while not contributing a story to the album as such, acts as a sort of backbone or underpinning to the characters’ softer aspects, contrasting the more aggressive emotional turmoil of Owen’s earlier stories in the record. As a textual underpinning, Weinmann’s one-track discretion still rings as significantly throughout Nephew in the Wild as the remaining nine stories.
The title track of the album, easily the most reminiscent, back dropped with a luke-warm hazy ambience, assumes a more affectionate wistfulness, beginning with the protagonist’s father bringing records over to the son’s house, and further delving into the affectionate intimacies of having kids. “Kids grow up fast, please be there for them.”
At the surface, the Nephew in the Wild appears to be an allegory of childhood nostalgia, romantic heartbreak, social frustration, starting life anew, arson, longing and ultimately revelation. And on reflection, it is this revelation in the closing tracks which provide Nephew in the Wild with its lighter, more heart-warming edge, using steady, cosy atmospheric wintry instrumentals that accompany the closing lyric of the album, “You won’t see me around. I’ve got a family now.” Owen’s pensive analysis of his characters’ reactions to love and heartbreak might bring a lump to the throat of even the sturdiest listeners.
Nephew in the Wild will be released via Tomlab on 21st August 2015.