Dark and ethereal, ash.ØK’s “Chained Rebellion” offers a somber contrasting of childhood dreams and societal expectations.
The top of the year is a time for reflection and change, and out of that cycle, growth and renewal: We all want an opportunity to “start fresh,” and a new orbital period is the best excuse to try to do better. For Philadelphia independent producer ash.ØK, the beginning of 2018 heralds more than a New Year’s resolution: It brings to fruition a highly-anticipated debut album, The Unraveled (independently out January 19, 2018). A highly emotional and often dark exploration of dissolution, disconnect and deterioration, ash.ØK’s record offers a provocative story with no clear resolve. It sheds light on backroom and kitchen table issues, while demanding that we look outside ourselves when contemplating the world we inhabit.
Atwood Magazine is proud to be premiering “Chained Rebellion,” the latest single off The Unraveled. Featuring Kid Moxie (vox) and Chrysanthe Tan (violin), “Chained Rebellion” offers a somber contrasting of childhood dreams and societal expectations in an ethereal, out-of-body soundscape.
All those dreams we softly dreamt
All those dreams in a haze of blue
Never felt such loneliness
Never felt so close to truth
Always love for what we wished,
even when we had to keep
Always moving, never reaching
all the things we had to be
Trapped within the arms of time
This rebellion chained inside our mind
Listen: “Chained Rebellion” – ash.ØK
“Chained Rebellion” is the second release off The Unraveled, following the title track’s release in late 2017. The song finds ash.ØK – born Ashok Kailath, a first-generation Indian American hailing from Philly – blending hip-hop, trap and electronica influences to create an ambient bed that is tense, despite its mellow texture. There’s a cerebral stiffness to Kid Moxie as she sings the chorus, her voice bereft of feeling to such an extent that it fills the listener with emotion:
In this moment
In this instance
We lost a lifetime, we lost a lifetime
The weight of lost dreams; of crushed expectations; of settling: It all falls on our ears with anger and agitation, sadness and acceptance.
“A few years ago, I remember seeing this old, torn Dr. Seuss book I had as a kid, Oh, The Places You’ll Go,” Ash recalls. “The first thought that came to mind was how much of a lie it all was…we’re programmed from childhood to believe everything is beautifully possible and easily within reach. What we aren’t told is that there’s plenty chaining us from achieving those dreams. We’re all meant for greatness, but we’re also unwittingly pushed to settle for mediocre. I wanted to capture that sense of desperate confinement, of being quietly robotic and unable to flex, all while the clock continues to tick away relentlessly.”
Desperate for some other life
Clinging on to what we know
Half carpe diem and then
Looking back at tomorrow
Forever was just yesterday
Now we’re here caressing heartbreaks
we thought were far away
We’re shadows, memories
A final dusk and our soul’s released.
“When we’re kids we’re told to reach for the stars and dream big, but more often than not, we’re also expected to have a steady career, get married, have this “perfect” American dream and we’re told to let go of those real aspirations we’re born with,” the artist laments. “That ending with the spiraling violins are sort of that break free, tipping point.” Only at the end of the song does the narrator begin to question breaking out of the surrounding mold, but there’s still so much uncertainty about everything that we don’t feel the brightness of hope; rather, we feel the oppressive force of resistance.
ash.ØK recorded “Chained Rebellion” with children’s voices – the same two kids at different ages in their lives, when they were infants and later when they were older, to further evoke that stirring sense of time passing.
In realizing his own vision, ash.ØK additionally succeeds in integrating fellow independent forces Kid Moxie and Chrysanthe Tan, each of whom brings their own talent and dynamism to the table. Moxie’s vocals vivify the helpless constraint that embody’s the song’s message, while Tan’s violin counters that with a beautiful warmth; one might be so bold as to call it musical optimism. Tan says, “When adding violin to this song, I wanted to create a singing, lyrical oasis to contrast the tight rhythms to flow smoothly with the forward-moving beats. I love how the song turned out — from the electronic instruments to the violin to the eerie robotic vocal harmonies.”
It all falls perfectly into place on “Chained Rebellion,” an intense genre bender that contemplates our individual role in a directionless world where, if you don’t fight the tide, you’ll end up succumbing to its pressure. ash.ØK is one of those exceptions, having fought his own obstacles to get to the precipice at which he now stands. This should feel like a celebratory moment – and it is – but at the same time, songs like “Chained Rebellion” force us to wonder: You made it here, but at what cost?
Take some time out for your own growth and renewal with ash.ØK’s new song, exclusively on Atwood Magazine.
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photo © Dan Drufovka