E.P. REVIEW: Tsinder Ash- The Carbon of Your Delight



Tsinder Ash



The Carbon of Your Delight




The Carbon of Your Delight is available at:


5th March, 2015

Experimental; Blues; Folk; Drone


London, U.K.


The Carbon of Your Delight9.4


The Sparking– 9.5



The Carbon of Your Delight; The Sparking


The Sparking


All tracks written, performed and recorded by Tsinder Ash
Mixed and Mastered by Mitch Girio at Slaughterhouse 754 
Additional Vocals by Clara Engel on The Sparking
Cover Photograph taken by AJAMU 
Cover model, design and cyanotypes by Tsinder Ash


FROM the Electro.-Pop-via-Alternative debut smash of…

RAY (A.K.A. Rachel Wilkinson) I get to look at someone completely different. Perhaps not in terms of location- the two acts are not based far away from one another- but stylistically and musically. RAY’s heartbreak-affected lyrics are still bouncing inside my head: making me wonder; I am trying to get down to the nub- just who has inspired them.  Right now- and for this afternoon- it is time to investigate one of the most individual and multi-talented artists around the capital. Before arriving at Tsinder Ash: it is worth looking at the musicians that do things differently; the necessity of mixing light and dark- standing out from the pack. I have a definite fondness for musicians that keep traditional alive: instill the sound and flavor of past masters; ensure that heritage and sound is kept intact. Whether you are a fan of Folk or Pop- and look for artists that do things purely- you are spoiled for choice. Over the last few years, there have been few acts that go out of their way to be distinguished. I think there is a general fear of ‘fitting in’: needing to sound a particular way to please critics and labels. It is important to appeal to the masses, but that is coming at the expense of originality and evolution. I am not one of those people that dismiss new music as doomed: something that is never going to grow; fated to fall. I feel 21st century sounds are not at the peak of past decades- I feel music hit its peak in the ‘90s- but that is not to say what we have now is inferior. There are plenty of artists that are definitely promising and can change things. My previous review- when looking at the delectable RAY- examined the most influential radio stations in the U.K.- focusing on ‘6 Music especially. I feel Britain- and the U.S. to an extent- is beholden to the lame, over-subscribed stations- those who play the least imaginative and stale music around. It sets a bad precedent for musicians and is causing listeners to be less adventurous and daring with their musical choices. I love an artist that can come to the scene with bravery, uniqueness, and certain quirkiness. Before I continue my point- and invariably, raise a couple more- let me introduce Tsinder Ash to you:

London-based recording and performance artist TSINDER ASH has played venues throughout the UK, Europe and the US. Collaborating with musicians from London, Canada and the States.

Having little regard for the confines of the stage, live performances are spontaneous and confronting. With vocals that range from a deep blues to whimsical folk and a style that derives influences from a range of musical genres, live shows extend beyond the bounds of traditional songwriting performance.

Tsinder is currently playing live throughout London and beyond and working on a brand new LP titled THE ECSTASY OF MAKING THINGS WORSE due for release in 2016. Please check Bandcamp or Facebook for updates and information on upcoming performances”.

A few weeks ago; I was foreign to the wonders of the London-based musician. Ash is an artist you can hardly ignore: everything about his music sort of leaps out of you. Aside from the somewhat ‘personal’ cover to The Carbon of Your Delight– certainly stays in the memory- the music contained within has been causing quite a splash. I have not heard many musicians that do things the same way (as Tsinder Ash). You could never accuse Ash of being anything other than visionary and different. Not one that follows the flock- or tries to distance himself from people- you get music that integrates light and dark; hopelessness and hope; genre-fusion and immense ambition. Having collaborated with Clara Engel- an artist I have reviewed a couple of times before- I was keen to dive in and see what was on offer. On paper; there are very few that compare with Ash. A singer classically trained at a young age: his formative years was spent performing in West End productions; moving on from Opera to foster a love for Jazz and Folk. Taking to the genres naturally: he taught himself a variety of skills; mastering saxophone and clarinet- adding stringed instruments to his instruments.  Now- blending off-kilter melodies and dark tones together- that multifarious appreciation of music comes together in a vibrant feast for the senses. I am kind of jealous when thinking of Tsinder Ash. He has done so much already- a younger man that I- and led quite an epic life. He is the sort of person whose progress could be adapted into a screenplay: a young musician that has experienced adventure and heartache; discovery and self-actualisation- turning into the man he is today. Incorporating Jazz and Folk into his repertoire: in a way, Ash is a sort of ‘anti-Folk’ artist. He can retain the structures and dynamics of Folk; he goes so much deeper. Not atonal or off-putting: his fusion of darker hues and impossible-to-define sounds is setting him aside as an artist to watch closely. While early work embraced U.S. Blues and older sounds: the modern-day Tsinder Ash mixes in more Urban integrations and street-level grittiness. That change of direction can be attributed to living in London: a city that is sure to change your views and dreams. With every E.P. and album; Ash evolves and does something new- keeping his distinct sound ablaze and strong.

Although The Carbon of Your Delight was released last year: it shows how much Tsinder Ash has developed as a musician. His eponymous album- released back in 2012- was jammed with fascinating tracks and odd avenues; incredible inventiveness and arresting songs. From the chanting mantra of Thunder; the scratched and head-spinning Drum for After– one of the most impressive vocal turns on the album- you get to see many sides to the hero. Inertia, You Moved Me (those contrasts and contradictions) boasts a spirited piano line: backed by a trembling and off-kilter vocal. Pacific and Disaster give us a window into a different side: darker edges that bring in great drama and vivid imagery. The 11-track record was well-received by critics and fans. Comparisons to Tom Waits were made- you can hear nods to the gravel-voiced maestro- and Captain Beefheart. Ash incorporates the quirkiness and heady-smoked trip of Camden; the Blues and Jazz magic of New Orleans- the darkness and uncertainty of the city. Tsinder Ash’s songs were typically tight and focused (aside from the 5:38-long Under Your Shadow). What we have now- The Carbon of Your Delight– is a shorter work that manages to be more experimental. The tracks are longer and a little more indulgent without being too bloated and unfocused. Even though the songs are less concise and brief than their predecessors: by the end of the E.P. you are still wanting more; keen to hear  more from the London-based musician. The biggest change- over the last few years- is the rise in confidence and direction. I say this about most musicians- when assessing their new and older work- but you can see change in Tsinder Ash. His self-titled album packed plenty of beauty and darkness: The Carbon of Your Delight ups the game and brings all Ash’s strength to the foreground. The songs are more nuanced and compelling; the performances more impressive and deep- the lyrics hold even-more fascination, memorability and variation. I know The Ecstasy of Making Things Worse is due this year: I am not sure what direction Tsinder Ash will be taking.  Maybe enforced by love and break-ups- the title does beg for those interpretations- it is likely to follow the same paths as previous work. Ash is keen to keep consistent and dependable- not shifting his dynamic too much- but with every release; you get something fresh and unexpected. I cannot wait to hear what is next. If it is anything like The Carbon of Your Delight: it likely to be one of the finest cuts of the year.

The Carbon of Your Delight’s title track begins with a quaking, tremulous vocal. Our hero has his mind in the grasp of a somewhat alluring Siren- a sweetheart that is compelling hyperbole; awed affectation and submission. The opening lines- “I would collapse into you/like a dying star/become nameless, genderless mould/on which touch can leave marks”- are delivered in operatic tones. Having that background: it is not surprising Ash can sound so masterful in that arena. Trembling and raw- a blend of Anthony Hegarty and well… who knows?! There is something wonderful evocative and familiar about the voice- although you cannot pinpoint a name- that gets you smiling and dreaming. Backed by slight strings- and no other accompaniments- the focus is placed on the voice. The song’s lyrics are among the most vivid and impressive I have heard in a long time. Stark and brash images- “Just the throb of your proximity/will keep the organs in” is among the best- mix submission and love; mortality and darkness. Our hero wants his body filled with resin; surrender to his girl- just so he could follow her shadow. The poetic lyrics are matched only by that central vocal: something that gets inside the head and stays there. Ash sounds like an older man singing from his deathbed. There is a frail and brittle quality to the voice: it quivers and trembles like a leaf yet possess so much power and passion. Wanting to fill himself with holes- so he can fit more of the girl in- you have a song that documents a desperate need and desire- through a distorted and vibrant prism. Ash’s lyrics are sometimes disturbing; always powerful and image-heavy. Given the song’s title: it is no shock the lyrics strip things to the bone; bring you right into the song. You will be hard-pressed to forget The Carbon of Your Delight when you hear it: it has that effect on you. As the verses progress; the pace picks up and the song gets busier. The strings become more punctuated and the urgency starts to creep in. Soon enough, you fall helplessly in love with the song: struck by the unique delivery and the strength of the lyrics. While the hero would “crumble to chalk”; become a body on which “fractal meanings dance”: you start to wonder about the song’s influence. One starts to imagine the sort of girl that is being represented: someone with immense beauty but a strangeness about her. That might be me jumping to conclusions- the song has a rather quirky charm- but it is impossible to hear it and not come to conclusions. By the latter stages; our hero seems even more immersed in the grips of love and desire. Wanting that ecstasy and kiss; the bond and touch: few people will be able to hear the song and not shed a sly tear. A powerful and gripping opening to the E.P.: one of the most impressive songs of Tsinder Ash’s career.

If the opening salvo mixed dark lyrics with the hopes of love: the sophomore track is a more frightening and suppressed thing. Unlike its predecessor- which opened with tremulous vocal ripples- the compositions leads Weapons. The opening seconds sees cosmic electronics take your mind to the skies. Although the song’s title might get you imagining something ballistic and violent: the compositions has a more heavenly and delicate touch. There is plenty of power and urgency; enough beauty and candour to put the mind in a positive place. When our hero comes into the spotlight: the opening words might change your mind. You get some banjo and Deep South finger-picking; New Orleans funereal stomp and something haunted this way comes. Our man is plagued by “Rivers of stone” and a “bloody dawn”. It could not be a Tsinder Ash song without something apocalyptic and mystical being detailed. The hero is a brave warrior that is fighting evil forces and demonic influences. Grief is coming for him; flesh is being torn from the body- our man is not going to leave this world unscathed and without impact. The song could almost take place in Game of Thrones: all manner of torture instruments and bloody scenes are laid bare. Of course, the lyrics are meant more metaphorically than literally. There are deep emotions haunting the soul; painful days that are taking their tolls- perhaps the aftermath of a break-up? The E.P.s opening contained affection and heady declarations- you could sense the spark and passion in the air. Here, we have something more downbeat and defeated. Entranced by the strings are you will be- you cannot help but transport yourself to some Deep South porch in the sun- the lyrics will certainly get int the brain. A masterful lyricist and poet: scenes of bloodshed and weapons intertwine; mingling with defiance and fight. Our hero has power and fight in his bones; he will not depart the world without making a statement. A song that could fit onto Rain Dogs (by Tom Waits): it blends the U.S. master with something distinctly Tsinder Ash.

The Sparking begins with haunting and dark beginnings. Those words are practical synonyms when it comes to Tsinder Ash and his music. Within the shadows and dusk is beauty and light to be found. Under a mother-of-pearl moon; our man is bringing home the bones (of the heroine). Again, you get ideas of battle-strewn lands and old-time scenes: something quite classic and mystique. Even in the early phases I was sucked into the song and its power. Ash’s voice has that dusky and smoky quality- again, Waits comes to mind- while the lyrics take your mind somewhere special. I have encountered few lyricists that have the same style and nature as Tsinder Ash. The hero wants to be at the sparking- whatever that refers to- and would never “beg your pardon”- only beg belief. Joining with Clara Engel: the duo combines their voices and combines in an odd- if rather wonderful- duet. It seems like a lovers’ call: two souls that are floating on a fiery sea and heading towards lands unknown. Silkworms hang by the hundred and are turning (our hero) into all sorts of forms- shapes that are foreign and unwelcomed. I can see why Ash hooked-up with Engel: the two have similar styles and affection for the English language. Among the entrancing vocals and immersive compositions: you get some very rich, detailed and lugubrious language. Perhaps the most startling moment from the E.P.: the song takes you in and does not let you go. The composition, once more, remains fairly sparse in places- a lot more detailed and full than other tracks. Engel and Ash are a perfect combination and have a special blend: one that gives the song gravitas and conviction.

Antipode closes things and brings The Carbon of Your Delight to a triumphant close. “You are the water’s edge/I crawl around” are among the most arresting and standout lines from the E.P.  The record is split between songs of love and fights against pain. If the opener was a blend of dark and light- a dark composition with light lyrics- the follow-up reversed that balance. The Sparking redressed the balance and adds new voice to the mix. Antipode has more in common with The Carbon of Your Delight– there is hope and professions of love; among introspection and pain. Tsinder Ash is a writer never overtly positive or negative. Every song and lyric will contain contrasts and layers: he is a complex person that never reveals himself too readily. ‘Antipode’ means something that is the exact opposite: a fitting title for an E.P. that contains contradictions, opposing emotions, and scenes. Antipode contains a typically whiskey-soaked and moonlight vocal- a man that is exposing his soul and looking for answers.  Our boy wants to be taken back to “shaded trees”; a place where “your leaking eyes formed the blackest years”- perhaps the most cryptic set of lyrics on the set.  Byzantine and oblique; you cannot resist projecting images and casting your own story. Whatever the song details: it is one of the most mysterious and appealing from the young master. The composition has plenty of beauty and light to it. You get beautiful strings and fused genres. Americana and Folk sit alongside Blues and Jazz- a rich and sumptuous palette. In the final phases; that composition becomes more lustful and romantic; aching and shivering. Ash is at his most concentrated and focused here: a song that provides a fitting finale and ensures the E.P. stays in the mind for a long time.

I am glad to have discovered Tsinder Ash- well, he found me actually. There are so few musicians that can sound both traditional and hugely different at the same time. The charts are awash with music that hardly sparks the imagination. You can discover some exciting and bracing musicians: their numbers are very rare and few. Look further afield and you fight hard to unearth an artist that strays from the pack- and causes a big reaction. While not everyone will instantly warm to Tsinder Ash- that music can take a few listens to make its beauty known- he is someone that is going to be around for a long time. The multi-instrumental wunderkind gets stronger and more confident with each new record. I adore the way he splices genres and owns every song on record. The performance values are extraordinary; the instrumentation stunning and beautiful- the vocals consistently engaging and beautiful. Boring people are, well, boring. The most interesting folk are those who change things are lead- rather than blindly follow with no direction. Tsinder Ash is a musician that will give inspiration and direction to many new artists.  Like Kiran Leonard- another young musician that has insane talent and reach. The Carbon of Your Delight is a beautifully-titled E.P. that showed a young man with a definite passion and talent. The four-track release brims with special moments and stands-in-the-brain memories. The Ecstasy of Making Things Worse– another beautiful title; a man who likes contrasts and vivacity- there is no telling just what will be contained. That L.P. – which will be dropped this year- is likely to expand upon The Carbon of Your Delight: take that base and add more colour and dimensions. It has been great investigating a musician that throws the rulebook out of the window: someone that grabs you by the neck and provides music of the highest order. The rest of this year is likely to be a busy and productive one for Ash. I cannot wait to hear the new album: just what it contains and how it will be received. If you are like me- and crave something special, different and bold- then discover what Tsinder Ash is all about. I have been highlighting the fact I have not been able to get out of London- with regards reviewing- and I am here once more. It is not to worry, mind. Although Ash’s body might be based in the capital; his music is far less planted. You get trips to the southern states of the U.S. thrown into the mix. Tsinder Ash is not someone you can pin down and predict. All of these qualities and sides go into one of the most interesting artists of the moment. Set aside some time to listen to The Carbon of Your Delight; drink it all in and allow the music…

TO do its work.



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