Ashrr is a relatively new band, formed only in 2018, but their credentials date back farther than that. Collectively, the Los Angeles trio have had great success from previous music projects in film and TV or producing with a large list of high-profile and legendary acts (lists that are too long to write here). Their debut album, Oscillator is a combination of synth-pop and alternative rock. The merging of styles and genres can be heard throughout the album, but overall it has very dark and contemporary new-wave tones. This can be attributed to Steven Davis’ deep, desolate vocals mixed so perfectly with an interesting range of synthesizer sounds and melodies produced for modern ears.
Oscillator is full of Bowie-esque songs, which can be heard on the album’s first single “Don’t Wait Too Long” and “Paper Glass”. However, it becomes most notable on “Here”, where Davis’ vocals are hauntingly somber, emphasized with echo and delay. It feels like a theatrical piece, as you can picture Davis standing on a dark stage, alone with a single light shining on him as he pours out all emotion with soft guitars, adding extra vibrato and solitude.
Ashrr’s second single from the album, “All Yours All Mine” has a bassline and riff that appears to be inspired by The Clash. This builds for an interesting combination with Davis’ voice and lyrics, “We’re on our worst behavior / We keep acting out our lies”, as it emphasizes the themes of humanity and its failures, heard throughout the album.
As a change of pace “Sometimes” steps up the tempo and becomes more upbeat with some funk style flair, “Artifact” does the same by edging further towards the alternative rock genre, but still keeping those new-wave synths. “Lost In You” moves from the deep and heavy, to an inspiring and romantic love song by focusing on a clear bass rhythm to push and drive the song into a positive direction. The repeated melody over the bass is bright and hopeful, which allows Davis to extend these feelings on to his vocals. Above all, the song is the most accessible on the album, due to its ability to capture the listener into its optimistic, memorable and chant-able chorus lines.
Some of the best moments from the album are when Ashrr focuses in and explores the more drawn out and melancholy, creating rich and moody atmospheres that play on the melodramatic and feel like you’re stepping into a film noir movie. “You’ve Made Up Your Mind” is an example of this as it uses new-wave synth sounds to reinforce the saddened desperate vocals, “I try and try to get through to you/ You won’t change your point of view/ You’ve already made up your mind…”
Oscillator attempts to push the confines of new-wave sounds into a more contemporary landscape and it is predominantly successful. The blending of genres and styles deepen and enrich certain songs, however, the album can sometimes feel like two separate works because of this. There is certainly a lot to enjoy from the album, many songs and moments that will bring you back and again. This makes me even more curious of what this trio can explore and experiment with next.