Backed by propulsive electric guitars, melodic vocals and gritty soundscapes, ASNT beautifully unearths the tender, vulnerable side of deep-seated pain.
The Irvine, California dark hard rock and husband-wife duo of Christina Baldwin (vocals) and Bruce Baldwin (guitar, drums, bass, piano) embarks on an emotive journey to release the guilt, shame and despair of the past on their latest album, Bleed Like Us: Evolution of Sorrow.
“‘Bleed Like Us’ is about ‘Westworld,’ and it’s about machines that look and bleed like us. That ended up being the name of the album on Bruce’s urging because it captures the theme of the whole thing. There is a certain bleeding happening in one way or another, but then there’s a positive resolution in some,” said Christina Baldwin.
Together, the Baldwins slowly slice through tightly sealed internal wounds to provide long-term relief and acceptance across 15 haunting, ruminative Bleed Like Us tracks. For ASNT (pronounced as “Ascent”), it’s an intense, therapeutic path for tackling mental health struggles, destructive relationships and regrettable actions.
“It depends where I am, the kind of writing that I do. I tend to go toward the dark side; it comes easier to me, and I have more words for dark things than I do for light. It’s a dark album, but it’s the evolution of sorrow, which means there is an end,” said Christina Baldwin, who’s inspired by Melissa Etheridge and Ann Wilson.
Bleed Like Us: Evolution of Sorrow
Fuzzy, anxious electric guitars, tranquil bass, crashing cymbals and steady drums remind listeners it’s time to quietly slaughter the destructive pessimism and move forward.
Christina Baldwin reflects, “Year on year of grinding down/Chiseled into moments/Where images are found/Polished into monuments/Of ‘I will not forgive you’/I will not relent.”
“‘The Dark Stain’ is very introspective, and it has coded messages for me that only Christina or I would know. I could be a folky singer-songwriter singing that song with an acoustic guitar,” said Bruce Baldwin, who wrote the track’s lyrics and music.
“It’s sort of about my life as a creative person and getting through a pretty tough year in the year that I wrote that song, which was back in 2018.”
While “The Dark Stain” cleanses inherent self-doubt, “Untethered” boldly exposes going against the societal grain and displaying youthful impetuousness. Tornadic, grungy electric guitars, thumping drums, tingly cymbals and palpitating drums eagerly ascend to the heavens, but then quickly return to the earth’s surface.
Christina Baldwin reveals, “Suspicions out/They doubt/Her true intentions/Arrows of flame/And shame/Defile the moment.”
“‘Untethered’ is about a female version of Icarus, and it’s an analogy to fighting against what’s holding you down and that release. That was a really important song for me,” said Bruce Baldwin, who’s inspired by Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Yes, King Crimson and Rush.
“All these songs have these long journeys for me in terms of how they are written and how they come about. Sometimes they exist in different forms for a long, long time before Christina ever hears them or knows about them.”
ASNT continues to share raw, honest moments along the Bleed Like Us journey, especially on the embattled ode to retaliation, “Last Night.” Fiery electric guitars, clobbering drums, enraged bass and clanging cymbals echo a woman’s longtime self-promise to leave an abusive relationship.
Christina Baldwin retorts, “Evening/It’s coming round again/Reeling/I’ll let you take your shot/Grieving/Tonight is my last night/Leaving/Not of my own accord.”
“‘Last Night’ is about domestic violence, and I had a friend who was going through that. It’s my warning to her, and at the end of the day, it becomes her last night because she’s no longer there anymore. I kept saying, ‘This is gonna be you if you don’t get out,’” said Christina Baldwin, who penned the track’s haunting lyrics.
The Baldwins started writing and recording tracks for Bleed Like Us four years ago in their home studio. They slowly released several tracks individually before compiling them on an EP and then later on a full-length album.
“Our EP was Bleed Like Us because it had six of these songs on it. Then, when we did the full thing, we wanted to say, Bleed Like Us: An Evolution of Sorrow, and here’s the rest of the story, but it gets better,” said Christina Baldwin.
“As the songs continue to be played live, they evolve, and then they start to take on their own life. When (Bruce) says were painstaking about each thing, we’re obsessed with the way it sounds, and that final product sounds as professional as possible. It’s our art and our voice.”
To bring the album to life visually, ASNT recorded and released a series of striking black and white videos for nine tracks, including “The Dark Stain,” “In Summation,” “Untethered” and “Starlet.” Batfarm’s Alexx Calise and The Mysterious Dronemaster filmed the shots for “Untethered” while the Baldwins directed, edited and compiled the rest on their own.
“The shapes and forms stand out in a different way to me than in color. It’s also a way of creating a consistent tone across the videos. I have thought multiple times about bringing a little color in here or there, but (black and white) feels more classic and darker in a way,” said Bruce Baldwin.
The Rise of ASNT
ASNT started climbing the hard rock ranks once Christina Baldwin joined the band. Bruce Baldwin placed an ad for a vocalist in a Phoenix area newspaper, and Christina Baldwin responded and auditioned. She impressed the band with her melodic vocals, which were honed while singing in karaoke venues.
“I wanted to sing in a band, and I thought, ‘Well, either put up or shut up.’ I looked in the New Times, and I saw an ad and was like, ‘This is crazy. I’ve never done that before.’ I called the number and ended up talking to Bruce for an hour. What did I do for my audition? I brought in my karaoke CD,” said Christina Baldwin with a laugh.
At the time, ASNT was a quintet based out of Arizona, but the band went through several lineup changes before becoming a duo. The Baldwins became involved personally, opted to reform the band and relocated to Orange County, California in 2007.
“When we were first a duo, we didn’t know what to do other than ‘OK, I’ll play acoustic guitar, and you’ll sing.’ Everything changed once we had this idea of live looping, and we started out gently with it,” said Bruce Baldwin, who grew up in Philadelphia.
“As I got better at doing it, I discovered that, ‘Wow, I can really be a rock band by myself with this technology.’ That opened the doors for us to become the beast that we are today.”
ASNT grew their beastly sound through a series of captivating releases, including 2012’s Secrets of Flight. In December, they changed the spelling of their band moniker from “Ascent” to “ASNT,” which distinguishes their identity and sound from other similarly named acts.
“When we play live, because there are just two of us, it’s all live looping. He plays the bass with his feet, he plays the guitar, he plays the drums, and it’s all built from scratch,” said Christina Baldwin.
“There are no tracks, and there’s nothing that’s prebuilt. He’s really the machine, and I bring the organic with the vocals. We feel like it’s the perfect meeting of two worlds.”
Today, the Baldwins continue to write and record new music after dropping Bleed Like Us in March. They also recently completed a short Northwest tour and will perform Oct. 9 at Bobby V’s in Garden Grove, California with Midnight Ramblers, Syndicate 4 and H.R.M.
“Once we get done with this high-energy promotion of this album, then we’ll go back and start to record some of the other songs. There’s at least one song that we’ve performed a little bit that hasn’t been recorded yet,” said Bruce Baldwin.
“And there are several that will be ready pretty soon and a lot more that are in various stages of completion. This is what we know to do, this is who we are, and our lifeblood is creating music, so we can’t stop.”