Keen to recall the buzz they experienced as kids every year when international music community’s Record Store Day came around, Ash are marking this year with a noticeable collection of BBC Sessions that capture the Downpatrick band’s golden era, more specifically, songs from the period 1994 to 1999.
Also vaguely occurring in the background is the group’s shared love of Nirvana’s legendary session appearances captured on cassette recordings of John Peel’s show. Acting as a big influence on Ash early on, it was hearing “the stripped down aesthetic pared down to the absolute core” that made such a grandiose impression on the Northern Irish indie punk-rock trio. While legendary BBC broadcaster John Peel’s overriding priority remained focused on new music, Peel would continue to play Ash on his shows at regular intervals, which in turn helped establish the familiar bond between both parties.
This collection focuses on recordings of The John Peel Session and The Evening Session shows and highlight the band’s versatility in pace and guitar sound. Evenly distributed are tracks unpicking the rawer end of the trio’s spectrum such as ‘Silver Surfer’, ‘Darkside Lightside’ and ‘Who You Drivin’ Now?’, and this is appropriately contrasted with the sweet, soothing textures of ‘Coasting and ‘Girl From Mars’.
Deliberately ending on a tranquil, folky note with ‘Folk Song’ and a cover of Michael Head and The Strands’ ‘Something Like You’ is a suitable, finishing touch. Speaking to Charlotte Hatherley and Tim Wheeler, John Peel says“I asked you this before, but I can’t remember what you said, are any of these going to appear - in this form - on record at all?” To which Tim Wheeler responds “I dunno, I never really thought about recording them this way, but I think we should.” Fittingly, they all agree.
‘Ash – BBC Sessions 1994-1999’ offers unique versions of the group’s songs and recording work with the BBC, and it happens to be a gloriously fitting, hand-picked song selection for breezy, warm summer days too.
Words: Susan Hansen
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