Ash Cheshire (formerly of Cheshi) has released their first solo album Illusion unexpectedly. The gloom and doom indie darklord Cheshire had performed a few shows under the moniker Nan Tykhe, including a rousing show at Sky Stage. The release contains a solid eight tracks (some of which have been heard live at Nan Tykhe shows) that each stand on their own and leave you wanting more. Illusion comes out of the news that Cheshire is moving to Philadelphia, which makes a connection with dream pop band Blue Heaven members Matt Full and Levi Miller who just moved to Austin, Texas and recorded and mixed/mastered Cheshire’s album respectively.
Illusion is acoustic, raw, emotional and never contains a second that isn’t vulnerable and completely heartfelt. See a track by track review below.
As of now, the only way to listen to the album is at ashcheshire.bandcamp.com
“I Am Not Well” – Softly-picked acoustic guitar follows a beautiful melodic pattern as a soft sad vocal creates the gloom through its spacious reverb. The track evolves when backing vocals kick in and make for an amazing outro full of euphony. A song that says everything it needs to and then ends at just over two minutes but feels like a spiritual journey.
“There’s An Owl in Here With a Whirlwind Heart” – What has always amazed me most about Cheshire’s voice is not only the technicality of being able to nail the high pitch notes, but also the pure emotion brought along with every note sung. I have never been more moved by a live singer – I can remember many occasions I felt like Cheshire’s singing transported me into some distant world after the cathartic experience.
“Salt” -The vocal harmonies convey the ultimate emotional cleansing as low acoustic guitar keeps things dark and a beautiful light and electric guitar lead expands on the idea laid down by the past two songs. An engaging hook – “Who’s to say it would be better any other way”
“Longing” – The absence of drums/percussion only creates a stronger tension within the fragility of a song like “Longing”. Cheshire reaches a new level of songwriting potential as studio effects and a gliding guitar part develop a pinnacle of sound that only experienced musicians reach.
“Bound to Repeat It” – The slow chord progression leaves plenty of breathing room in this track for the powerful vocal presence. Often I’m slightly puzzled in a brilliant way by Cheshire’s lyrics. Thy come off as incredibly personal, yet I feel the honesty in every word as if I’ve lived the experiences the songs could be about. “I learn my part, but forgot all my lines.”
“I for I” – A standout track from the past live Nan Tykhe performances I heard. Absolutely gut-wrenching verses such as “Fear dear manifests in ways I can’t explain, the pain inside me at the end of the day” and “To see them laugh as they cut up my body, a delicate hobby – I’m stable, sings my severed head.” The chorus “What if I died? Who’s at my side? It’s I for I.” is beyond addictive.
“A Place Not of You” – A more upbeat number with a spacious keyboard hook that really draws things along. A folky vibe mixes in and creates something totally different from the rest of the album.
“Elderberries” – The somber tone continues and wraps up the release in Cheshire’s best qualities. The guitar chord progression is absolutely delightful but in the end you’re captivated by the transcendent vocals that take you into an emotional space you may have thought were never possible in music.