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ASNT – Bleed Like Us: Evolution of Sorrow

ASNT
Bleed Like Us: Evolution of Sorrow
by Mark Machlay at 29 June 2021, 7:00 AM

From the joining of two like hearts comes the Orange County, California duo of ASNT or ASCENT. They are a progressive, dark, hard rock husband and wife team of Bruce and Christina Baldwin. Bruce’s first experienced music through parent-mandated piano lessons at age 9 as well as destroying a toy drum kit rather quickly. He later become a drummer for a metal band when he was 15, picked up his first guitar at 16 and the obsession to continue with music grew from there. He was highly individualistic and because he needed to create and record songs all on his own, became an accomplished multi-instrumentalist. In order to play all the parts himself, he developed a complex approach to live-looping that allowed him to re-create all his songs live without the use of pre-recorded material. Christina, on the other hand, developed her passion for music even younger, performing songs gazing into her mother’s dresser mirror at the tender age of 3. Her older brother was her gateway to a wider variety of musical styles, eventually leading to her car port concerts in which she charged 10 cents for her shows filled with carefully written choreography, lyrics, melodies, props and staging. She had been honing her performance and stage presence skill for many years when one evening she answered a newspaper ad for a vocalist that led her to Bruce’s door. Their story began there and they have continued to grow and learn together as musicians.

ASNT’s debut album “Bleed Like Us: Evolution of Sorrow” is a culmination of four years of writing and recording. Their sound is a quite layered and intricate hard rock base with influences pulling from progressive rock, metal and goth rock. The songs include dark yet upbeat hard rocking tunes, odd-time experimentation and two purely piano ballads. The lyrical themes range from murderous starlets to introspective robots. With Bruce Baldwin’s multi-instrument, looping approach, his blazing lead playing and Christina Baldwin’s bluesy, Ann Wilson meets classic jazz style singing, it certainly makes for an interesting pairing and intriguing approach to heavy yet progressive rock.

On paper, when hearing about the unique approach given to the instruments with the always welcome addition of a female vocalist, I was immediately interested in hearing what ASNT had to offer on “Bleed Like Us: Evolution of Sorrow”. I have personally worked with loop pedals, and they can be finicky, gimmicky things if used in the wrong hands and that’s something I can’t fault Bruce Baldwin, he utilizes it with finesse. Unfortunately, often what he comes up with isn’t really that fascinating, nor are the compositions overly complicated from a structural perspective, so I can’t say I hear a lot of RUSH or PINK FLOYD influences outside of some guitar theatrics. But there are moments when you can hear a little KING CRIMSON and especially Robert Fripp in his guitar playing. In the album’s title track “Bleed Like Us”, you can hear the great raw quality that Christina Baldwin has, going for the BLONDIE like sound with a keyboard patch to further solidify the influence. Unfortunately, for me, she also uses a very heavy vibrato on nearly every track and it belies that talent, sounding like she is intentionally covering for bad pitch or intonation especially on the ballad “The Inside”. While the lyrical content is actually interesting, sometimes her performance is distracting enough to ruin the poignancy of the words. I must also mention, I’m not a fan of the mushy guitar tone that Bruce employs but I can’t deny that he has the guitar skills to pull off great lead lines like in the rocking album closer “Don’t Make Me”.

Songwriting: 7
Musicianship: 8
Memorability: 6
Production: 7

3 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Bleed Like Us
2. In Place of Breathing
3. The Dark Stain
4. In Summation
5. The Abduction of Jane Doe
6. A Science Lost
7. Untethered
8. Misdeeds of Inertia
9. The Inside
10. Starlet
11. Beacon Eleven
12. Last Night
13. Divergence
14. Don’t Make Me
15. Bleed Like Us (Acoustic)
Lineup:
Christina Baldwin – Vocals
Bruce Baldwin – Guitar, Drums, Bass, Piano, Synthesizers
Record Label: Independent
     


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