Advance Base @ The Glad Cafe, Glasgow, 28 Feb
Despite the understated nature of Owen Ashworth's music and persona, his words speak volumes tonight as his insightful lyricism permeates the room with a wistful sentimentality
Neil Pennycook and his new synthesiser provide a lovely opening to the night, lamenting the death of fictional, historical dogs and musing over a small-town murder mystery (look out for Meursault's forthcoming album, Crow Hill), with a little help from Faith Eliott and Robyn Dawson.
The cosy settings of The Glad Cafe are the ideal place for Owen Ashworth (now Advance Base, formerly Casiotone for the Painfully Alone) to pour forth his feelings. The intimacy is fitting, helping to create the illusion that these private musings are just for you. Dolores & Kimberly opens the night on a typically dreary, yet strangely uplighting note, setting out the thematic stall for the evening.
Summon Satan, Your Dog and a fantastic cover of The Magnetic Fields' You & Me & the Moon provide moments of levity between heavy, emotionally-charged diaristic cuts like Trisha Please Come Home, Rabbits and My Sister's Birthday. The 'open-book' formula of Ashworth's songwriting spills into his chat, too, as he tells a funny anecdote about Marvin Gaye (and Sam Cooke and Al Green), introduces Christmas in Nightmare City with a melancholic tale and continually wrestles with his oncoming fever.
A few Casiotone tracks are delightful to hear (Scattered Pearls, New Year's Kiss, Bobby Malone Moves Home), but it seems clear that Ashworth has achieved a new-found clarity and perspective with his new moniker. His songwriting has always been affecting, but its contemplation now seems more patient and accepting; willing to see the joy in the mundane, rather than just despair. These might be logical byproducts of age and experience, one would hope, but they're rarely channelled so endearingly.
It's hard to call any one moment an emotional apex when the whole performance is constructed from them, but the brief second that Ashworth takes to thank the late Mark Hollis, who helped inspire Care, is a perfectly succinct tribute. That the track itself deals with the way tragedy and grief can inform our understanding of love makes for a tender moment.
Despite the understated nature of Ashworth's music and persona, his words speak volumes tonight as his insightful lyricism permeates the room with a wistful sentimentality. It's hard not to be moved by such bold displays of emotional availability.