Gig review: Advance Base, Edinburgh

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The first thing you notice about the guy on stage is his thick black beard. The second is his slightly receding hairline and the third is the big dark overcoat he’s wearing.

Advance Base - Sneaky Pete’s, Edinburgh

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My God, you might say as you think about the baking heat that’s landed on the city, he must be close to death in that thing. Yet Owen Ashworth seems singularly unflappable, and probably not the kind of guy who packs shorts and a T-shirt for the stage when the weather improves, despite being raised in California.

For 13 years (he played his final gig on the anniversary of the first) Ashworth was known as Casiotone for the Painfully Alone, a name he discarded in 2010 partly down to a maturing of his musical tastes and partly because he was no longer a maudlin 20-year-old. Yet now, at 36, he doesn’t do too much that’s dissimilar from what he’s always done – here he sat at a keyboard, pressed play on dense, fractured beats and performed songs of wry yearning over a cheap and only moderately cheerful keyboard line.

The effect was all the more tender for its lo-fi air, adding a sense of wistful yearning to the unheralded slacker anthem The Sister You Never Had and its “there’s no use complaining / you don’t want things changing at all” refrain or seasonal songs like Christmas in Milwaukee with its wistful, hibernatory air. He signed off with a track about “growing up listening to too much heavy metal music and believing you’re the Antichrist” and fused it with a poignant rinky-dink solo on Stairway to Heaven, then he hopped offstage and was anonymous amongst us once again.

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