Review: Ashtar Lavanda – Unsolved Mystery EP

Complete fortune has led to the release of Ashtar Lavanda’s EP, gleaned from a treasure-trove of unreleased material found in storage. The Waveform Transmitter’s Ste Knight takes a listen to some classic electro on ‘Unsolved Mystery’. 

There is always something magical about hearing an artist for the first time. Especially when that artist’s compositions have remained a hidden secret for in excess of twenty years. One such artist, whose productions have been obscured from our ears, is Ashtar Lavanda.

As the story goes, Jimmy Edgar of Ultramajic somehow managed to procure the recordings, among a wealth of additional vinyl, DAT and cassettes. What he heard was electro that was in line with other analog producers of the 90s; DopplereffektDrexciya, and AUX88 being amongst the peers of our enigmatic producer. The themes of space travel and alien life-forms that electro has become famous for, are all present on this release. This is a crate-digger’s dream, make no mistake.

Now, 20 years on, Ashtar‘s legacy will be seeing the light of day, thanks to the tenacity of the Ultramajic imprint, who plan to release more of the producer’s music in good time. Whether or not this is true, or simply a ruse by Edgar to add an air of mystery to the release, is a question we are sure many people will ask. However, just know that this is an excellent example of early electro and it needs to be heard and appreciated

The first of the collection to be released is Ashtar‘s stunning electro workout, ‘Unsolved Mystery EP’. The collection features a selection of analog electro cuts that would fare well in any modern DJ set. The EP opens up with ‘Opulence, in which ascending synth chimes ring out, before ushering in a heavily distorted bassline. Synths zap and, on occasion, even miaow over the top of meticulously timed claps and kicks; a sparse percussive arrangement which allows the rest of the elements room to breathe.

‘Moth’ starts out with a vocodered vocal, before more acid synths bubble up to the surface of the mix. Computerised, 8-bit samples enter the fray, accompanied by more heavily treated vocal blurps. From here we are segued into the frenetically fraught ‘Rozwell’, which is complete with alien utterances and a synth line that ascends and descends in the manner of an other-worldly craft, totally ignoring the physics of our own planet.

We are invited to shake it, next, by the vocal snippet in Gratior Shake’ as treble heavy samples gurgle away over the top of the mix. The bassline is a funk-ridden workout, which ends abruptly as the opening sample of ‘Unsolved Mystery’, a bit-crushing whoosh foists itself upon the listener, before opening the track up with more of Lavanda‘s deft drum programming and synth work.

Marfa Lights, my favourite production on the EP, has some wonderful elements contained therein. The synth opens the track with some delightful glissando slides between notes, before retro-futuristic synths inhabit the top end of the track. Key flurries enter and exit the mix, as bass pads give the track an almost ominous feel. Perfect, dystopian electro if you ask me.

Ashtar Lavanda ‘Unsolved Mystery’ was released on February 9th, is available to buy now on both vinyl and digital formats. Grab it while you can because physical copies are limited. Take a listen, below.


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