We’re pleased to share a new mix from Sam Ashton, a London based Ambient artist working under the alias Fortresses. That project began with the release of “Spring” in 2020, catching the ear of Yann Novak. Ashton’s debut EP, Eve, has just been released on Novak’s Dragon’s Eye Recordings, one of our favorite contemporary labels. In celebration, Ashton has compiled Eve Inspirations, a delicate mix of eight tracks exploring the sonic influences that have helped to build Fortresses. If you like what you hear, more of Ashton’s mixes can be found on his Balamii radio show, Equinox. Enjoy. (Joseph Sannicandro)
Please introduce yourself.
I’m Sam Ashton, I’m a multidisciplinary artist, born and raised in London. Fortresses is my Ambient music project that I’ve been working on for roughly two years. The project only came to light in late 2020 when I self-released a track called “Spring,” which caught the attention of Dragon’s Eye Recordings. Yann Novak, who runs Dragon’s Eye, asked me if I wanted to make a release for the label, and I was really pleased as I’ve admired his music and label for a long time.
Congrats on joining the Dragon’s Eye roster. Tell us about Eve, your upcoming new record.
Thank you! Eve is a three-track EP that clocks in at just under twenty-five minutes. The songs were made slowly over a long period of time, and to me each song represents a different time of day, as subtly referenced in the EP’s title. The songs hold some very personal themes, but as an artist, I want to avoid influencing the listener’s own emotional response by imposing my own meanings too much. Much of the beauty of instrumental music is in its subjectivity. The tracks are densely-arranged compositional Ambient pieces made with guitar, modular synth, raw and processed field recordings collated from various walks in London’s natural and urban spaces, and a mellotron iPhone app. I was happy to have the EP mastered by Taylor Deupree, as his music and label 12k have provided a lot of inspiration to me over the years.
Set up the mix for us; what’s the theme, how’d you put it together?
It’s a forty-minute long mix of carefully curated and mixed tracks, ranging from Experimental Folk, to Rock, to Ambient. There are old favourites and recent discoveries, and throughout the mix there are musical characteristics that have influenced the EP, and the Fortresses sound in general – persistently repetitive instrumental passages, merging of hi-fi and lo-fi sounds, pensive moods and ethereal textures.
How are things in London these days? Has live music picked up at all yet?
London, like many other places, is still in the aftershock of COVID, and things aren’t quite back to normal yet, but it looks like we’re getting there. I personally haven’t been to any shows since before the pandemic hit, but I’m excited to return to seeing live music at Cafe Oto and Iklectik, which are two incredible experimental music venues that are constantly putting on amazing shows, by both underground and more well-known artists working in experimental genres. London is certainly a great place to be as a music lover, or as a musician, regardless of genre.
Do you do live performance as Fortresses or is it more a studio practice?
Fortresses is currently a studio project, but I am considering playing live in future.
Besides Eve, anything else coming up you’d like to mention?
I’ve just returned from a trip to the southeast coast of England, where I’ve been making field recordings of the waves, wind, and flora and fauna of the coastal region, and am working those recordings into a long-form piece inspired by the beautiful sprawling coasts of Dungeness, Hastings, Camber, and Margate. I also have a full-length Fortresses record in preparation for release next year, as well as some other material. On top of that, I have some visual art projects in the works.
1. Benoît Pioulard – Marre
2. Talk Talk – New Grass
3. Fennesz and Ryuichi Sakamoto – Oto
4. Merope – Bitinėlis
5. GAS – Pop 1
6. Mabe Fratti – Creo Que Puedo Hacer Algo
7. Tor Lundvall and Leila Abdul-Rauf – Quiet Seaside
8. Ulla – I Think My Tears Have Become Good