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ROBERT ASHLEY: Concrete (double CD)
Ashley has carved out a personal niche for these 'operas', which are spoken tonally, rather than sung, in a style between demotic and ritual, with small, quiet, complex shadowy accompaniment, indeterminately acoustic or electronic or both. If intrigued but unfamiliar, this very recent work is a good place to start. The stories are loosely narrative based, descriptive, strange, conversational, very literate, pulpy, often funny, sometimes grim, always odd, and orbiting around crime or the quotidian life of shadowy characters, including Ashley himself. The music here is vanishlngly subtle, but very effective though hardly there at all. It's for listening. Neither music nor narrative, or both, it is a honed, unique form that is Ashley's own.