Beginner’s guide to Asana

The chances are you won’t have come across Dave Barker‘s Asana project before, but if you like gentle, dramatic, instrumental electronic music, it has plenty to offer.

Key moments

His creative peak was probably with 1997’s Trikuti, his second album, which was produced by Andy Pickford.

Where to start

Definitely grab a copy of Trikuti, which is brilliant, either in its original form or the new remaster, which can be purchased directly from the Asana website

What to buy

If you can find Live at Jodrell Bank, that’s also worth having. Then there are two Cerulean albums from his side project to choose from – try Ectoplasm (2002). His debut album Shrine (1994) is good, but it isn’t as great as Trikuti. If you can find a copy, either of the original or the re-recorded CD-R version for not too much money, go for it, but don’t lose too much sleep if not.

Don’t bother with

There’s nothing to avoid as such, but do try sampling everything first so you can be sure it’s for you.

Hidden treasure

Despite what I said above, Shrine and Radiant are both great pieces from the first album, and East, from the live album, is very good too.

For stowaways

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Music for the Masses 28 – 29 November 2004

By late November 2004, Music for the Masses had settled into a comfortable rhythm – so much so, in fact, that I was largely forgetting to do silly things every time the webcam went off – the only highlight this week involved me waving my arms around a bit.

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Show 28: Mon 29 Nov 2004, from 6:05pm-8:00pm

Broadcast on LSR FM, online only. Artist of the week: The Future Sound of London.

  • Bent – An Ordinary Day
  • Dusted – Always Remember to Respect & Honour Your Mother (Part 1)
  • White Town – Panoptican
  • Massive Attack – Teardrop
  • Voodoo Child – Light is in Your Eyes
  • Gotan Project – Queremos Paz
  • The Future Sound of London – Papua New Guinea
  • Orbital – The Box
  • Asana – Signals
  • Grace – If I Could Fly
  • Lemon Jelly – Stay with You
  • The Future Sound of London – Cascade
  • Death in Vegas – Dirge
  • Client feat. Carl Barât – Pornography
  • Dario G – Sunchyme
  • Jam & Spoon feat. Rea – Be Angeled
  • Erasure – Breathe
  • Electronic – Freefall
  • Goldbug – Whole Lotta Love
  • Leftfield – Dusted
  • The Future Sound of London – My Kingdom

Music for the Masses 21 – 10 October 2004

After a four year break, Music for the Masses made its triumphant return, switching now from Aberystwyth to Leeds, and finally making the break into the world of FM broadcasting. The first show started a few minutes late, as the producer had fallen asleep so deeply that he couldn’t hear the telephone ringing, as I frantically tried to get somebody’s attention inside the building so I could come in and do my show. After a lot of waving my arms around, I finally got the attention of the DJs, who politely waved back. Eventually, somebody let me in, and the show began.

Show 21: Sun 10 Oct 2004, from 4:05am-6:05am

Broadcast on LSR FM, on FM and online. Artist of the week: Depeche Mode.

  • Télépopmusik – Breathe
  • Air – Cherry Blossom Girl
  • Enigma – Boum Boum (Chicane Mix)
  • Delerium feat. Zoë Johnston – You & I
  • Depeche Mode – Behind the Wheel (Beatmasters Mix)
  • Alpinestars – NuSEX City
  • Front Line Assembly – Transmitter
  • Client – The Chill of October
  • Yello – Time Palace
  • Depeche Mode – Only When I Lose Myself
  • S.I. Futures – Eurostar
  • Echoboy – Turning On
  • Dirty Vegas – Days Go By (Acoustic)
  • New Order – Touched by the Hand of God (Biff & Memphis Remix)
  • Apollo 440 – Vanishing Point
  • Depeche Mode – Enjoy the Silence
  • Asana – Re-embodiment
  • Goldfrapp – Hairy Trees
  • Orbital & Angelo Badalamenti – Beached

This show was recorded, and for the most part still exists. It will be posted as a Playlist for stowaways soon.

Asana – Trikuti

Brace yourself for this. This might come as a surprise.

There’s a whole genre of music out there that you don’t know anything about. It’s called “EM” (Electronic Music), and it’s generally inspired by the likes of VangelisTangerine Dream and Jean Michel Jarre. One of the finest EM musicians is Andy Pickford, and in 1996 he produced Asana‘s second album Trikuti.

Asana is the nom de guerre of UK-based solo artist Dave Barker. Following his largely unremarkable debut ShrineTrikuti should, although little known, probably be regarded as one of the finest albums of the genre. It opens with a “little” three-minute introduction called Communion, full of bubbly synth arpeggios and slightly daft new age vocal snippets.

The second track is also a short one, clocking in at just under seven minutes. Signals opens with an analogue synth arpeggio, and swiftly builds into something entirely worthy of all the artists I listed at the start. The odd slightly naff sound here and there pokes through, but by the time you’re halfway through the track, it’s grabbed you completely.

Clocking in at just over an hour, there are just seven tracks on here, of which four are truly exceptional, and Union of Knowledge is the first of these. It’s a little dated in places now, nearly two decades later, but that’s forgivable. Again, it’s driven largely by synth arpeggios, with a few little vocal samples playing the melody from three minutes in. It’s amazing how quickly you get used to the sheer scale of the tracks on here.

The next track is the best on the whole album. It opens with gentle twisting pad sounds, a few light drums, and warped vocal samples, and then the synth lines start. There’s a clear formula at work here, but it’s a strong one. At the end of each section, the track breaks down in a different way before building back more defiantly than ever. Eleven minutes of music have rarely passed this quickly.

DNA Ritual is good, although perhaps a little less overwhelming. The general theme here seems to be some kind of alien takeover, and while I’m not entirely clear what’s going on during this “DNA ritual,” it’s still a good track. This one’s a little lacking in melody, driven more by complex synth lines, but it’s none the worse for that.

Seemingly it’s rather difficult to find the words to describe an album like this, which may explain the curious wording of this review. I found the title track Trikuti to be the weakest of the bunch, so I wouldn’t describe it as engrossing and beguiling, but it’s by no means bad either.

The final track is Unbeliever, and is another of the stronger pieces on the album. Generally softer and more chilled out than anything up to this point, it bubbles along for its eleven minutes with lots of pads and strong melody lines, before closing with another daft vocal sample, this time something about the nature of truth.

You probably have to have the right sort of taste, but Trikuti is a great album if you like your synth music to be full of pads and arpeggios, energetic but laid back, and very much inspired by the works of the pioneers of the 1970s.

The original version of Trikuti is no longer available but you can find the recent reissue (with all the tracks rearranged for some reason) at Asana‘s website here. You can hear more of this kind of thing on my September playlist Soundscapes, here, and there’s a guide to all of Asana‘s free output here.

Playlist for stowaways – Soundscapes

The fifth Playlist for stowaways is a tribute to the 1990s BBC Radio Derby show Soundscapes. Presented by Ashley Franklin until his removal from the station in February 2000, the show is fondly remembered by fans of electronic music who lived in the East Midlands over the era. Or perhaps it’s only me? Anyway, I put this little mixtape together with a selection of music that he did include, music that he would have included, and music that he should have included.

Ashley talks more about his ousting on his blog here.

This is MFS005, Soundscapes, and it can be listened to here.

  1. Banco de Gaia – Obsidian
  2. Andy Pickford – Lughnasad
  3. Asana – Re-embodiment
  4. Röyksopp – The Fear
  5. Paul Nagle – Shanghai Surprise
  6. The Orb – A Huge Evergrowing Pulsating Brain That Rules from the Centre of the Ultraworld
  7. Rick Kenton – Red Sky
  8. Moby – Heaven
  9. The Shamen – Xochipili’s Return
  10. Delerium – Amnesia
  11. The Future Sound of London – My Kingdom (Part 5)
  12. Laurie Mayer – Low Floating Territory

Free mp3 of the week – Asana

Whole bundles of Jean Michel Jarre and Vangelis-inspired electronic soundscapes from the mid-1990s are up for grabs this week. Asana is a guy called Dave Barker, who released a couple of very good albums back in the olden days. After a long break, he’s now back on the internet, and he’s giving away a whole load of his less-well known material here, both from his solo projects and his later collaboration Cerulean.

If you’re not sure where to start, I’d particularly recommend his 1998 single Enshrined (here) and his 1997 Jodrell Bank live performance (here).