ASZENSION: Bringing Differences Together

AsZension

Cnadian Progressive Rock unit Aszension released their third studio album not so long ago. The founder of the band, multi-instrumentalist Kevin Thiessen answered our question about the band’s work, the new record and other topics.

Define the mission of Aszension.

Music is a universal language, and the goal of Aszension is to create unique and memorable music that transcends culture, is free of borders and challenges the listener.

Tell me about the creative process that formed your new album “Portals.”

When writing, I either have a distinct idea for a song, or I’ll just be inspired to sit down with the guitar or keyboard and start recording improvisations. A lot of the songs on Portals were built that way. Once I have some basic arrangements, I’ll overdub various things like bass and percussion, or transpose one instrument for another etc. Once there’s a solid foundation for a song, I won’t revisit it until a couple weeks later, when inspiration strikes again.

How does this new album compare with your previous efforts?

With every album, I try to take a step forward in all areas of production and presentation. For Portals, it meant bringing in some extra artists and technicians to further enhance things. So on that level, you could say the album is more of a collective effort than previous releases, thus making for a better final product. The musical chemistry has also grown between the members over the last couple of albums, and I think that alone speaks volumes.

How did you document the music while it was being formulated?

I record everything I write on guitar straight away, so there’s no real worry of forgetting ideas. I also use notation software for charts. When I write and record on keyboard, the notes are automatically notated in midi files.

AsZension - Portals

Is the dynamic flow of the pieces carefully architected?

Yes, once I knew which pieces were suitable for the album, a conscious effort was made to make each song flow nicely from one to the other.

Describe the approach to recording the album.

All the recording was done at my studio, with the exception of drums. They were recorded at a different studio out in the country. I started recording my ideas to a metronome on either guitar or keyboard, and then proceeded to overdub tracks from there. As soon as I had the demos ready for Portals, I brought in the band to play the tracks for real. We used computer applications for recording and editing the album, with a strong usage of analog preamp equipment for all the instruments and mics.

How long was “Portals” in the making?

I started writing demos in July of 2014, about 6 months after the release of the second album, Biosphere. The artwork was completed in October of 2015, and the album was mixed sometime in May of this year. The mastering was finished this July, so all together it took about two years.

Which bands or artists influenced your work on the release?

I was most likely listening to a lot of Rush, IQ, Ozric Tentacles, etc. I was also mixing some other projects for people that probably rubbed off on me in some way.

What is your view on technology in music?

It can be a benefit as well as a hinderance. Modern recording software for instance. It allows you to create and edit music at a faster rate compared to conventional methods, but on the other hand, not a lot of emphasis is spent on getting the performance right anymore. Or take the loudness war with mastering as an example. Technology has made it possible for engineers to compress tracks and master them at a much louder volume than in previous decades. But with more compression, comes a sacrifice in dynamics and tonal quality. Eventually leading to hearing fatigue and depriving the listener of any long-term emotional connection to the music. So there are pros and cons.

Do you see your music as serving a purpose beyond music?

I’ve always seen my music as a way of bringing different cultures together for a common cause. This idea could also be applied to any of the major issues we face as a species.

What are your plans for the future?

To continue to produce music for myself and others. I’d also like to finish off some unreleased projects I’ve been working on, and do some shows in support of Portals.

“Portals” is available now from Bandcamp. Follow AsZension on Facebook.

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