It’s melodic and moving and sounds similar to what I hear in my head and unsuccessfully attempt to do when I’m plinking around on the uke myself. I’ve never even been into death metal, doom metal, black metal or any of its other monikers. I’ve got nothing against the style of music, it just hasn’t appealed to my musical tastes thus far. Yet, the instrumental ukulele album Ashland by Gorguts and Dysrhythmia guitarist Kevin Hufnagel is some of the most inventive and thoughtful music you’re likely to come across. Granted, it sounds nothing like death metal, though there is some dissonance on pieces such as “Ancient Instinct” and “The Otherness.” These tracks, along with “Paths Crossed”, are some of the most interesting on the collection though, as Hufnagel has “prepared” the uke (much as one can “prepare” a piano). In other words, he’s used additional objects such as hair elastics and sewing needles in the strings to broaden and extend the sound of the instrument. Beyond these tracks, the balance of the album has more of a finger-picked, classical influenced sound.
There are a few semi-dark pieces (I mean, Hufnagel has played songs with Gorguts that have titles like “Enemies of Compassion” and “Reduced to Silence”, so you gotta expect a little darkness here), but nothing too sinister. In fact, on tracks such as “Dual Nature”, it’s more like moon and shadows, mysterious night breezes. Elsewhere, we find light in songs such as “Janda”, which he composed for a friend’s wedding. “The Gift” is an airy, echo-ornamented track while “The Dust of Centuries” is evocative of Spanish desert landscapes.
There’s a lesson to be learned here: never let the stereotypes fool you. Ashland is an often gentle, and always accomplished, outing from a multi-faceted musician.
You can listen to and download the entire album on Kevin Hufnagels’ Bandcamp page.
He’s also on Youtube.