It’s only fitting that Ashtray Navigations would celebrate their 20th anniversary at the Hyde Park Picture House as the cinema’s big 100 approaching this autumn. Both stand as testaments to Leeds’ culture in their own way, the Picture House dances between underground and mainstream film, art house and family pictures, whilst Ashtray Navigations are a mainstay in psychedelic noise with a reach that goes far beyond the borders of Yorkshire. The group toasted this milestone with a seven-course feast of experimental music.
Of course all ears were readily anchored towards Ashtray Navigation’s headline set, a finalé to the proceedings that saw Phil Todd and Mel O’Dubslaine manipulate electric guitar riffs into searing sounds spiralling off into the cosmos. Buoyed by a bed of noisy inflections, the pair seemed very much in their element of improvisation and the odd grin could be made out as their gear took their music into different surprising directions. The set played out like a satisfying victory lap, nodding to their achievements and hopefully foreshadowing many more to come.
Much of the draw came from an undercard that saw the appearance of kosmische rock squad Castrato Attack Group, David Larcher’s films from an alternative future, Shemboid’s sprawling city skyline guitar and the rusted compositions of City Hands. Hysterisis were undoubtedly a highlight, crashing saxophones and improvised percussion blurred together into one of the more interesting and engaging performances of the day. The other act that really impressed was Core of the Coalman, an artist that fused bluegrass viola with outdated sci-fi motifs.
Approachable, invigorating and mesmerising for the most part, the event was Recon through-and-through and Ashtray Navigations can certainly count on us to keep singing their praises – especially when their party tricks are this good.