NPR logo Ashley Paul Incites A Microscopic Riot On 'Watch Them Pass'

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Ashley Paul Incites A Microscopic Riot On 'Watch Them Pass'

Ashley Paul. Courtesy of the artist hide caption

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Courtesy of the artist

Ashley Paul.

Courtesy of the artist

Even in still moments, particles incite microscopic riots. Brooklyn-via-Boston composer and multi-instrumentalist Ashley Paul is used to making a huge racket, most regularly with her husband Eli Keszler. On her Line the Clouds, there's tension in patience as she navigates a singer-songwriter's reactions.

With cautiously plucked electric guitar, saxophone squeaks and bowed percussion, Line the Clouds is not a conventional singer-songwriter album. The techniques and sonics come from free improvisation, but Paul plays with them as though they were handed down from folk singers past. The sparse, abstract instrumentation is just as expressive and hushed and unsure as her voice, perhaps most starkly heard on "Watch Them Pass."

Ashley Paul. Courtesy of the artist hide caption

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Courtesy of the artist

Ashley Paul.

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Listen: Ashley Paul, 'Watch Them Pass'

Watch Them Pass

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/175397914/175454320" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • from Line the Clouds
  • by Ashley Paul

It's easy to say that "Watch Them Pass" is Line the Clouds at its most stripped down: guitar and voice, with the breathy coo of a saxophone somewhere in the background. The repeated phrases — "watch them pass," "no one is there for you" — are cryptic and melancholy, like I Could Live in Hope-era Low taking lyrical cues from Jandek. But as finger-picked guitar melodies and Paul's double-tracked and slightly off-sync vocals tumble over each other, a tiny universe forms, awaiting a riot.

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Line the Clouds is out now on REL Records (vinyl) and Boomkat (digital).