Advance Base – Nephew in the Wind

Owen Ashworth seemed to signal a break from his Casiotone for the Painfully Alone past when he launched the Advance Base moniker for 2012’s A Shut-In’s Prayer. The Advance Base Ashworth was a tad more polished, somewhat more mature, and vaguely country inflected.

Nephew in the Wild is surprising mainly for its slight reversion to Ashworth’s Casiotone ways. His keyboards and rhythm tracks have regained some of that bedroom lo-fi quality, and he’s slurring his words again. Fortunately this plays to Ashworth’s strengths – his vignettes go down better with a little haze around the edges; Note the way he endearingly mumbles “I’ve got trouble enough” on the chorus to “Christmas in Milwaukee.”

In 2014 Ashworth collaborated with Mark Kozelek on Sun Kil Moon’s Benji, and before launching his own label Ashworth issued A Shut-In’s Prayer on Kozelek’s Caldo Verde imprint. The kinship is logical; Advance Base could be heard as Sun Kil Moon’s dimestore keyboard doppelganger. Both bands traffic in deep-throated plainspoken vocals and tales of working class travails (less charitably, Kozelek’s characters could be called rednecks, Ashworth’s white trash).

However, Ashworth’s lyrics come across less as personal narrative and more as heartfelt literary tales. Recurring motifs cycle through Nephew in the Wild: teen mothers, ne’er-do-well fathers, young adults attempting to outrun unhappy pasts, in this case through Michigan. When he hews too close to country conventions (as on “The Only Other Girl from Back Home”) Ashworth’s melodies can succumb to cliché. More often, though, he channels enough indie rock to produce an album reminiscent of the Magnetic Fields’ The Charm of the Highway Strip.

Nephew in the Wild is a dark ride, but a rewarding one.

Advance Base
Nephew in the Wild