Where Matter Lives
July 27, 1999
Recorded on 4+8 track in the bedrooms of Belingham WA, Seattle WA, and Portland OR
Melodic, understated indie-pop that at the least is pretty, and at its best is moving. Ashley favors a whispery, slightly distant-sounding vocal style that lends a hushed atmosphere to the 20 tuneful cuts, as well as folky guitars that suit the material well. Although this could be pegged as confessional singer-songwriter stuff, there's an intangible sense of moodiness and eccentricity that makes it of a different school than, say, James Taylor or Cat Stevens. The songs are permeated with images of longing, fantasizing a better alternate reality, loss, and solitary brooding, though it's not at all a mopefest. If anything he might do well to lean toward his darker inclinations a little more often: occasionally it's a little on the sweet side musically, and the most impressive numbers are definitely the most melancholy ones. As it happened this was cut on four- and eight-track recorders, but technically the sound is very good. What the basic equipment did probably ensure was that the music sounded heartfelt and intimate, which is crucial on projects like this, when too much polish can make things disagreeably sentimental. There seems no reason why Elliott Smith should be so well known, while Nate Ashley is virtually unknown. That's not meant as a slag on Smith, or to imply that Ashley is incredibly similar. It's just to say that the disparity between their levels of public recognition and success is unfair, especially given that many fans of Smith and his ilk could well take to this in a fairly big way.
- Richie Unterberger, AllMusic