If you can't judge a book by his cover, how about a record? The cover art of this lp is a reproduction of a Persian (Druze, I presume) drawing of the mystical man. Standing on his feet, limbs and body filled with their own magical attributes, similar to the jewish sephirothic Adam Kadmon. One thing that strikes and appears odd, is the salamander crawling inside the man from his crotch area. In Sufi mythology, the salamander has the attributes of fire, it's said able to cross into fire without any harm. In alchemy, fire was always seen as a purifying element, and the salamander a metaphor of what fire cannot alter, let it be the soul of man, finally revealed after a long process of suffering.
Many esoteric traditions use the reptilian metaphor or iconography, to represent the sexual energy. The lacanian school of psychoanalysis tends to relate mysticism with a form of homosexuality. It's not so weird anymore that the salamander might actually be entering that man's rectum. As with control of feces, control of the rectum is said to be the sexuality of the teacher. The one who mastered his own erotic impulses and can now provide initiation to the young adept. But this is just about the cover art. One is now entitled to ask; what kind of life does Muhammad Al-Aqil lives?
Maybe it's the perspective of being released on the Egyptian based label Nashazphone, which is possibly one of the most interesting label out there, that infused Phil Todd's music with such an evident oriental vibe. It works definitely great and makes this, in my opinion, the most interesting Ashtray Navigation album I've heard. Six songs (hence the title) make the whole of this record, where Middle-Eastern melodic moods blend in with drones and noise in such a beautiful way. This record starts like a lo-fi Smithsonian Folkways recording of Arab music; saz floating on top of a bed of noise, made up of indistinguishable background sounds, balanced quite loud in the mix. There's a lot going on. Multiple layers of sounds reveal a complex density in the music of Ashtray Navigations, and on a close listen you can discover other instruments played in the background. The third track is really interesting, bells and distant percussions sound like gunshots on top of which a distorted electric guitar improvises on oriental scales. Further along the trip, whirling keyboards float in the mixture of noises and the listener is entranced in one major depersonalization. There's an overall surrealism that permeates every songs; like someone trapped in a distant dream, allowing unconscious images and fantasies to rise. But both sides finish abruptly with plain noise, bringing us back to the reality of what is actually going on, instilling the idea that this turntable might actually be broken... 9/10 -- Frédérick Galbrun (17 February, 2010)