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"A>S>H>S to A>S>H>S bust to bust"

A>S>H>S to A>S>H>S, Bust to Bust
Hounded by the authorities, an experimental band and its mortifying collaborators look for a home

For quite some time now, the A>S>H>S Warehouse (2805 Pease) has been a hotbed of alternative entertainment in central Houston. Every Monday, Thursday and Friday, Audible Stellar Hypnotic Situations, or A>S>H>S, a sextet that dabbles in genre-tripping percussion pieces, records and rehearses in the upstairs studio. In a large open space next door, the performance artists of CoRE (another acronym, meaning Constructs of Ritual Evolution) often practice the art of dangling from the ceiling by virtue of the salmon and shark hooks piercing their flesh.
Recently A>S>H>S and CoRE have been banding together to throw, shall we say, interesting public exhibitions. But a few months ago, the authorities made sure these groups would not be doing their shows -- well, at least not at their near-eastside warehouse.

It all started on Saturday, August 25, when the warehouse was home to an event called "Fuck This Rave." The cops and a couple of fire marshals shut the place down an hour and a half before the event, which was to be hosted by a group of experimental electronic-noise mavens known as the Briokids.

"They ended up harassing a whole bunch of people later on that night," says Briokids co-founder Spencer "Ickoo" Smith, referring to the would-be attendees who arrived unaware of the cancellation. "A number of people ended up receiving tickets for things that weren't even pertaining to the party. A guy got a ticket for throwing a beer can. Another guy got a ticket for riding his bike down the street." Even the members of the CoRE group, who were practicing in their space next door at the time, were told to beat it by a befuddled fire marshal, who perhaps thought they were putting on some kind of drug orgy/sex show. "I don't know what they were thinking," says CoRE creator/director Steve Joyner, chuckling.

The authorities deemed the venue unfit for public gatherings because building owners did not have the proper occupancy permits. A>S>H>S percussionist/ producer Jason Williams, who leases the warehouse but was not present during the raid, speculates that this was the work of a tip-off from another party crew. "Somebody had to say, 'Oh, why don't you fuck with A>S>H>S -- they don't have permits,' " says Williams. Although he isn't pointing any fingers, it's worth noting that on that same evening, an oft-delayed party called "Damn That DJ Made My Day," organized by the Dance Junkies crew, also was shut down by authorities.

The warehouse ban couldn't have come at a worse time. At the end of September, Williams and his A>S>H>S team were scheduled to celebrate their one-year anniversary at the venue, but that party has been put on the back burner. And since A>S>H>S has gained a reputation for being "extreme" entertainers , it has been difficult for them to find a temporary home for their nighttime endeavors. Fortunately, they have found safety in Numbers (300 Westheimer). There, last Thursday, A>S>H>S and CoRE were together again for an evening called "Balancing the Scales."

Despite the fact that Thursdays at Numbers are associated with goths, A>S>H>S is not an outfit for those who have a taste for the black arts. "We don't play gothic music," says Williams. The same thing goes for their CoRE collaborators. "We don't necessarily follow the gothic thing," says Joyner. "I wanna get into more respectable places, 'cause what we do is performance art. We don't belong in venues like clubs. We're not a rock band, we're a performance art group, and we're very serious about what we believe in."

Williams is working to get the warehouse up and running again, so you can hear "tribal and ambient noiz" while watching people hang on hooks the way it oughta be -- in a big-ass warehouse.

- Houston press

"Kick A>S>H>S"

Kick A>S>H>S

SAT 6/12/04

The guys in Audible Stellar Hypnotic Situations (a.k.a. A>S>H>S) call themselves a "tribal experiment." We, however, know 'em as guys who fuse MIDI and turntable skills together with live congas and the occasional horn for raucous live shows, no two of which are alike. Check out some jazzy, hip-hop-infused grooves and tripped-out visual effects at 9 p.m. on Saturday, June 12. Numbers, 300 Westheimer. For information, call 713-526-6551 or visit www.numbersnightclub.com. $8. -- Steven Devadanam

- Houston Press

"Early review of Savvy A>S>H>S"

Hailing from Houston Texas, ¿Savvy? blends raw drumming, electronic tweeking and NO sampling into their beat heavy, trippy experimental music. Their influences are Crash Worship, Download, Karl Hienz Stockhausen, Muslim Gauze to name a few. This is the demo/premiere release for ¿Savvy?. For future reference, the band has added to their name, it now being: Savvy Tribe.

Dubbed Intelligent Dance Music or IDM by local Houston vendors, all tracks are *very* dance oriented in terms of having excellent beats, real live percussion and at times swaying tribal rhythms. You'll hear quite a few different sounds and styles on this release. Don't get me wrong here, this isn't pop disco stuff, but more so it's thick bassy insertions with drum beats that aren't so simple yet very expansive with sounds that could be bells (cow bells maybe?), and electronic knob tweeking which brings out many wierd and twisted sonic events (gurgling, buzzing, whirring, zzzzzpppps, p0ps, snaps, mrrpz, bleeepzzzm hrrmmmms etc.. ). There are also sampled or live vocals in this release. I'm not sure if it's the band members speaking and placing effects on their voices with machines, or if these voices are off the radio or TV commercials... however as on Track 5, "What Is It", there are a few different voices (male and female) going on: [male placating voice], "Let us be thankful we have an occupation to fill. Work hard, increase production, prevent accidents, and.. be happy...." "What's wrong? Take four red capsules.... in ten minutes, take...". Sometimes I call music like this, "Music for people with ADD [Attention Deficit Disorder] because it's really busy and there is never a dull moment.

I've never really heard anything quite like this music. Being that I am very much into percussion and beats, I really enjoy listening to this release. It's weird enough in the experimental electronic sense that it's not in the least bit boring. There is usually quite a bit of sound collage and changes going on in the background, and the beats are strong and not so linear which adds to the depth and movements associated within each track. I highly recommend the music of Savvy [Tribe].
- Lastsigh.com

"The A>S>H>S legacy"

Searching Houston’s seedy underbelly looking for good music I kept coming across A>S>H>S. They were there in September, 1997 with Spiral Tribe on the Bolivar beach. When I met them they actually were part of Spiral Tribe who had roamed the planet holding free teknivals spreading DIY ideas and praying the police would show up so that they could utilize their rights. Two self released Spiral Tribe cds - both called “Extreme Havok 98” - were made in the A>S>H>S studio at the Maggot Colony (known to crap rock bands as Francisco studios.) Their drum playing can be heard throughout both releases, fused with hardcore experimental techno and jungle. Spiral Tribe, with A>S>H>S, showed up at the Fall, 1997 Westheimer Street Festival in their bus without a permit just to see how long they could play. Their best shows had people breathing fire and dancing in bonfires downtown - complete with firetrucks and police patdowns. On their online bio it simply says “several now legendary shows.”

Like everything A>S>H>S gets involved in, if you weren’t there, you missed it. Spiral Tribe left again for England, and A>S>H>S began work on their first solo work. Released in 1999 under the name Savvy?, the 12” was composed using samples of their own live drumming, alongside dark synth lines, constantly shifting samples and tripped out noises. An early reviewer wrote, “I’ve never heard anything quite like this music.”

At the time they played shows in the backrooms of rave parties, they began doing shows at their newly acquired warehouse at Pease and Delano. In October, 2000 A>S>H>S began collaborating with CoRE who do suspension rituals with shark hooks. The mix of performance art and hardcore tribal music left the mixed crowd roaring and amazed. The A>S>H>S warehouse soon became THE spot for underground art in Houston. A>S>H>S, no longer inhibited by having to move their equipment to play, began doing shows nearly every month.

It all culminated June 8, 2001, during the night of the fury of Tropical Storm Allison. The show with CoRE and some cats from Colorado "MOTOman Project" was a full on theatrical performance art assault. The Colorado kids brought their homemade firebreathing robots and used them to transport people around to be suspended, while several clusters of suspended women floated around just as garnish. A>S>H>S brought the necessary drumming to the mix and by the end of the show, Houston was completely underwater and no one could leave.

Things change quickly with A>S>H>S. In july, 2001, Aerosol Warfare did its Orange and Purple graffiti art gallery opening at the ASHS warehouse. The two groups would soon join forces as Nathan and Bezerk began scratching over the already increasingly jazzy sounds A>S>H>S was now morphing into. With Jason drumming the hell out of the drumset, and Jay keeping the congas tapping, the percussion in A>S>H>S is as complex and groovy as ever. Classical jazz basslines funk out from Scott, sometimes put through a bass synth, while Tim fills in textures on the keyboards. Rod, over the top of it all, blows saxophone and flutes.

Its something else to hear, a band of musicians utilizing technology to its fullest to bring about art that is truly unique and forward thinking. Their studio tracks, based around samples of their own music, blow the lid off the competition who sit around programming live sounding beats for hours at a time.

The live show, however, is and always has been where A>S>H>S shines. If youre not on the bus, youre off the bus. You either see it or you’ve missed it, because this current incarnation of A>S>H>S is sure to change and in a few years the underground of Houston will finally be talking about what's happening right now.

By Alan Hencey - virus B-23 (briokids)

"A>S>H>S @ Sugarhill"

(HOUSTON, TEXAS) - January 24, 2005 - Genre-bending techno-tribal sextet
(pronounced "Ashes") completed tracking their new studio release at SugarHill Recording Studios. The project was engineered by John Griffin in Studios A and B, and will be mixed in the coming months.

A>S>H>S is Jason Williams on drums, Scott Nichols on bass, Xavier Gonzales on congas, Joseph Barryman on saxophone, and Christopher Karl and Nathan Buentello on turntables. The album also features Ian Varley of Houston's instrumental jazz-funk Drop Trio on keyboards.

A>S>H>S, an acronym for Audible Stellar Hypnotic Situations, formed in 1997. Over the past eight years, they have played many legendary shows in and around Houston, Texas. Their shows incorporate MIDI triggered visual effects and they often play in conjunction with performance art troupes ranging from fire dancers to suspension ritualists
- www.sugarhillstudios.com

"All About Jazz CD review"

At first listen, A>S>H>S could easily come off as a stereotypical jam band. But to dismiss the group as just another one of the crop of bands spawned by Medeski, Martin, and Wood would be a mistake. Where MMW and similar groups sometimes fail to maintain a steady concept throughout their albums, the Houston-based jazz ensemble A>S>H>S (pronounced “ashes�) takes experimentation and improvisation to another level.

The opening “Kleen� begins with a “Shine On You Crazy Diamond�-like, synth-laden intro that quickly moves into the band's trademark playing, interspersed with repetitive samples about testing an atomic bomb. This twelve-minute song is the perfect introduction to the group: its immaculate beats, subdued keyboards, and moody, sometimes punchy saxophone showcase each member's talents well. Similarly, “Corpus Raton� flows with melodic precision, and its eerie samples (�Choice is an illusion,� for instance) offer fair warning that A>S>H>S is not an ordinary jazz group.

The unexpected hilarious snippets of Chevy Chase from National Lampoon's Vacation (�Excuse me, Holmes...�) on “Nova� show that the band doesn't have to take itself too seriously in order to create good music. The song's tribal rhythms, along with its smooth sax and '70s-style keys create a dynamic, driving force.

It is immediately obvious that this band is in its ideal element in live performance—it's infamous for downtown Houston warehouse parties—but its music translates well on record. Audible Stellar Hyponotic Situations also includes two in-studio improv tracks, �Situation 1� and “Situation 2,� which drive the point home. Both songs, recorded in 2004 at Houston's legendary Sugarhill Studios, are indicative of these players' penchant for letting the music speak through their instruments, yet they never meander too far.

And this is their strongest feature: the fact they can weave elements of jazz with hints of funk, hip-hop and classic rock, but still maintain cohesiveness throughout. Pulling this off would be a challenge for most bands, yet A>S>H>S makes it seamless and nearly effortless. - allaboutjazz.com

"ASHS CD Review neufutur.com"

ASHS - Audible Stellar Hypnotic Situations / 8 Tracks / http://www.ashs.us / Reviewed 06 June 2007

ASHS has been working on these tracks for three years. The disc’s first track is “Kleen”, and from the beginning, it sounds like the space before the action in a sci-fi movie. Particularly, the music creates a vision for me similar to the opening scene in a sci-fi move, when a crew is on space station before the negative auction happens. The band seems to have a traditional sense of arrangements, in that different elements are added every few seconds, rather than disparate elements being strewn about all willy-nilly.

What is not orderly are the quotes strewn through “Kleen”. The tempo of this track speeds up to create something that reminds me of the electronic movement of the middle nineties. There is a funkiness present to the track that belies the electronic sound of the track; ASHS is definitely trying to do something that has not been done before with this album. “Corpus Raton” has the same blend of styles as “Kleen”, and like its immediate predecessor it uses a number of quotes to give it a vocal presence. However, it is not the vocals that really make ASHS, but rather the compelling instrumentation on each track on the disc that does. There is a musical journey that individuals are taken on for each track, and while each track has something in common with the other songs on the disc, these songs are very different from one another. “Nova” uses a vocal line that reminds one of backmasking a track. The use of this vocal sound shows yet again that the band is willing to change new things while still going back to their “typical” sound.

There is a distinct tropical influence during “Nova” that keeps individuals listening in, and by the time that the track ends, it feels as if the band has scored yet another hit. The songs will never be on the top of the Billboard charts, but for atmospheric and somewhat chill electronic music, ASHS is the act that one should look. The disparate elements are all subjugated by the band into one cohesive stream; listeners will easily be able to pick up the songs at any point during the disc or in the tracks themselves. Perhaps the most interesting track on the disc to be “Lost”, as there seems to even be hints of “Kid A”-era Radiohead present in ASHS’s output here. The band makes a full album that will be perfect for those times when the party is chill and people are talking. The tracks on this album are fresh and new, and will undoubtedly be for a long period of time.

Top Tracks: Lost, Act Fact - Neufutur.com

"Dope A>S>H>S Party!"

Dope A>S>H>S Party

SAT 8/13
Audible stellar hypnotic situations occur wherever A>S>H>S sets up its gear. And when there's a house party at the local psych-trance-turntablist-funk collective's very own studio, expect things to get downright visionary. Add to the bill the exploratory grooves of this year's Houston Press Music Awards Best Jazz and Best Funk/R&B/Reggae winners Drop Trio (featuring Best Keyboardist Ian Varley) -- along with the Eastern-flavored "improv-world-fusion" of Mezclan -- and you're headed for definite sensory overload territory. Oh, and did we mention the free beer and Jell-O shots? Duuuude, we are so there! 9 p.m. Saturday, August 13. A>S>H>S Studio, 2215 Commerce, suite F. For information, visit www.ashs.us. Free. -- Scott Faingold - Houston Press

"Party rises from the A>S>H>S"

A>S>H>S's music sounds like a downtown street, one where the rich and poor mingle, and gleaming glass buildings sit on top of filthy parking garages. It's jazz created in the underground, informed by hip-hop and any sound that has ever been produced with an electrical current.

"What's underground? It just means you're not mainstream," says the band's drummer and producer, Jason Williams. "We're underground because of our past; that's where we come from."

Williams is referring to the parties the band has been throwing for years. A>S>H>S (which stands for Audible Stellar Hypnotic Situations and, by the way, is pronounced "ashes") has created its own scene in Houston by renting a warehouse and putting on shows there. The band controls every aspect of the environment — the sound, lighting, obviously the music, even food — and bass player Scott Nichols calls the resulting show a "refined house party."

But it's not just about the party; it's also about the music.

"It basically just started from improvisation;" Williams says, "from me and Scott just jamming on bass and drums. I would take the recordings and make loops."

"When the rave scene kicked in, we really dug the beat," Nichols adds. "We wanted to make electronic music. But I remember we watched John Coltrane on a TV special, and we were like, 'Man, we're cheating ourselves not playing our instruments.' So we started putting the techno in our heads onto our instruments."

Joining Williams and Nichols is Joseph Berryman's dusky tenor sax, Chad Hilger on keys, Xavier Gonzalez on congas, and on the turntable is Christopher "Bezerk" Karl, who "narrates" the music.

"I'm the guy who does all the scratching and adds all the vocals," Karl says. "The vocals tell a story about the atmosphere we're creating. Act Fast is about the atomic bomb. As the music changes, there's a man warning you, saying, 'The bomb can explode at any time.' When the music changes, it's like the bomb exploding, and the vocal there is, 'You can't see radiation, but can you feel it?' We try to say something without saying it."

You wouldn't expect it, but Act Fast is one of the prettier songs on the band's new self-titled album of highly listenable tunes. As the bomb is exploding, the music is lush and pleasing, like a pop song. But A>S>H>S doesn't think much of pop music.

"We listen to dark music: Skinny Puppy, Crash Worship. At the same time we're listening to Coltrane, Miles Davis, Meat Beat Manifesto," Williams says.

There's also funk, dance, hip-hop and psychedelia in A>S>H>S' mix. It amounts to an elegant mishmash of ideas, sounds and, as Karl likes to think of it, art.

"Music is a fast medium; when you get inspired, you get everything out. If I'm inspired to draw, there's only so much I can do in 30 minutes. In 30 minutes of music I can make all these sounds and throw all this stuff together.''

Though the word "underground" is infused with the pride of staying hidden, little known and unpolished, A>S>H>S doesn't think it has to be that way.

"Being an artist, you want to reach people," Williams says. "If you're not trying to make money or play for people, what are you doing? We want to maintain the vibe we had in the underground, but as a business we have to be savvy in order to gain notoriety."

With the attention they hope to get, A>S>H>S wants to reintroduce the spiritual, human side of music to the world's party kids.

"Music used to be ritual and worship and religion and mysticism. Now it's about your gold chain, and I think that's really depressing," Williams says. "People want something of substance in their life, and I think we're trying to give them something real." - Sara Cress - Houston Chronicle

"A>S>H>S CD review"

By Glenn Astarita

Based in Houston, Texas., this jazz-fusion sextet pursues an android-like sound. Featuring Joseph Berryman’s wah-wah/echo-laden sax licks, ethereal keys, revved up rhythms and space groove stylizations, the band also injects hi-tech hip hop into the grand mix. Fortunately, they move forward with a detectable sense of good-cheer. Therefore, this outing does not fall into that stigmatized electronics debacle where processes are over-utilized, often equating to digital slop.

It’s a fun listen indeed. And it’s an album that reveals subliminal nuances and textures upon additional spins. Sure, they cross various genres, yet successfully merge these elements into a cohesive, group sound. Marked by toe-tapping rhythms, vivacious soloing and electronically altered spoken word, the band unveils a potpourri of interesting concepts, and applications. Conga performer Xavier Gonzalez adds a world-beat edge to round out this action-packed endeavor, enhanced by the musicians’ witty maneuvers. With that notion in mind, the group morphs a sense of antiquity -- partly due to Chad Hilger’s Moog-based lines – with a nouveau mindset that looms rather large. – Glenn Astarita

Joseph Berryman: tenor sax; Xavier Gonzalez: congas; Chad Hilger: Fender Rhodes, moog; Christopher “Bezerk” Karl: turntablist; Scott Nichols: bass; Jason Williams: drums, percussion.

(CD-2006 Independent: www.ashs.us) - ejazznews.com


"Audible Stellar Hypnotic Situations" 2006

¿Savvy? 12" vinyl 1999
Self-released album of entirely electronic tracks built from samples of live jams. Available at ASHS.US

"Extreme Havok '98"
Produced and released with Spiral Tribe 1998

A>S>H>S receives airplay on 90.1 KPFT Pacifica Radio and 91.7 KPFT Rice University Radio in Houston, Texas.

A few of their preliminary releases and remixes of tracks from their upcoming album debuted on Soular Grooves & GenerAsian Radio.



There are two things you should know about A>S>H>S: it’s a philosophy that combines the latest in technology and instrumentation to create consuming rhythmic environments; and it’s the real deal—not some gimmicky, genre-enslaved crowd chaser.

A>S>H>S sprang from two musicians experimenting with drum and bass over recorded loops and exploded into a scion of the urban underground rave party scene, throwing illegal parties with Spiral Tribe (infamous techno nomads in Europe) and building their own reputation out of a 12,000 square foot warehouse in the Houston area. Their now-legendary events there were deemed “a hotbed of alternative entertainment” by member of the local press.

“We’re not hippies or college kids trying emulate the rave/party culture,” says Jason Williams, who in addition to being the group’s drummer also handles aux percussion, serves as producer and develops visuals. “We’ve come from, have digested and are already leaving that behind.”

Williams’ bandmates are Scott Nichols on bass guitar; Zavier “Jay” Gonzales on congas and alt persussion; Christopher “Berserk” Karl, the group’s turntablist who also contributes to visuals and design; Joseph Berryman on tenor saxophone, and Chad Hilger on keyboards.

He says that A>S>H>S art is evolving to the “next level beyond emulating a rave with live instruments and laptops.” The five-year plan is to create “full-blown multimedia environments”—the first experiment will be in Houston and will incorporate live music with live lights, laser, visuals and dance.

David Cobb of allaboutjazz.com said A>S>H>S has a “penchant for letting the music speak through their instruments… they can weave elements of jazz with hints of funk, hip-hop and classic rock, but still maintain cohesiveness throughout. Pulling this off would be a challenge for most bands, yet A>S>H>S makes it seamless and nearly effortless.”

A>S>H>S expects to leave its audiences spellbound. “We want them to be excited; to realize that they weren’t aware that sounds and environments existed like that,” Gonzales said. “They’re happy to hear something totally new and refreshing, and they’re smiling because they’ve been grooving and jamming all night.”

“A>S>H>S's music sounds like a downtown street, one where the rich and poor mingle, and gleaming glass buildings sit on top of filthy parking garages,” wrote Sara Cress of the Houston Chronicle. “It's jazz created in the underground, informed by hip-hop and any sound that has ever been produced with an electrical current.”

The band is in the final stages of producing a new debut CD that will carry the essence of this sensory experiment to listeners worldwide. Considering A>S>H>S’ talent for taking a space and expanding it—and the minds within—it’s likely that it will be bringing its unique artistry to cities everywhere soon after.

An excellent way to wrap your mind around the A>S>H>S experience is to visit its website at www.ashs.us for news, information and music.