I’ve had the greatest experience with the music of Josh Newton, who goes by the name Aedhon/Apsaras when recording music. He masters a unique instrument called the hang, or hang drum, also called handpan, which sounds halfway between steel drums and glockenspiel bells. The man is a drummer, knows his beats, and had to explore melodies with this instrument, which isn’t something most percussionists are inclined to do easily. “Rite of Initiation” is a beautiful and relaxing album of soft but rhythmic music, which sounds fat and rich, just like aloes cream does for skin: soothing and enriching.

josh newton

Credit: Marc Hennessy

I met Josh while he was playing in the streets of Asheville, North Carolina, as I was on vacation with my family a few weeks ago. Asheville is a small but exciting town where a lot of musicians play in the streets. You’ll hear a lot of banjos, folk singers doing various formats of music: bluegrass, blues, country, folk, and so on. With his drum kit and his hung, Josh Newton stood out: it’s an impressive instrument; he plays it simultaneously with his drums. His beautiful music stood out too, as it floated in the streets of Asheville, on a hot summer afternoon. He also played in local bands A Ghost Like Me and To All My Dear Friends, among others.

I bought a record and chatted a bit with the musician. Very cool guy. He explained to me that only a few of these instruments were made, and one of the 14 places where they build them is only a few miles away from Asheville. He needs to softly touch the different parts of this reversed bowl to make those beautiful round sounds emerge from it.

This is a clip from two OTHER musicians found on YouTube, since none from Aedhon/Apsaras were published yet. This will give you an idea of the sound of the instrument. Our guy has a much more ambient mood, though. You can click on the headset icon on the top picture to hear an audio track taken from the album “Rite of Initiation”.

 

His project’s name, Aedhon/Apsaras combines Gaelic and Hindi traditions. Josh explains: “Aedhon is an old Gaelic name which translates literally to “born of fire”. It’s a name held by several different Irish mythological figures, most notably one of Lyr’s children who became a minor god of the Celtic Underworld. Apsaras is a Hindi word that translates to “from the water’s stream”. An apsara is also a kind of nymph in Hindu mythology, typically the consorts of Indra’s court musicians. They are shape shifters, dancers, and serve many other roles in Hindu mythology.”

ancient and modern apsaras

ancient and modern apsaras

Later that day, after a few delicious beers and lunch at the local brewery called The Wicked Weed (that was recommended by one of Newton’s friends), we had to go back home to the chalet in the Smoky Mountains. I don’t know if you’ve ever been in this beautiful area where clouds seem to get stuck to the mountains but let me tell you the roads are curvy, going up and down in the mountains. Kids sleeping on the back seats. Our GPS kept showing us a path that looked like small intestines… Route 80, between Asheville and Burnsville, NC, look it up.

route 80

Route 80

So imagine this. A curvy route in the mountains, following Buck Creek, at night, with the car’s headlight only showing the next 100 feet because of the curves and the fog, with us carefully watching for deers, opossums, raccoons and small rabbits jumping on our path, with this beautiful music playing loud enough in the car to make it a moving jukebox. Aedhon/Apsaras’ “Rite of Initiation” helped to keep the driving relaxing although it was an intense road to follow. We arrived home cool and safe, put the children to bed and appreciated a glass of red Biltmore wine (buying local, as much as possible, as you may have noticed…).

The Smoky Mountains... in the day!

The Smoky Mountains… in the day!

I thank Josh Newton for his beautiful music. I thank myself for following my instinct and curiosity as I heard that beautiful music a block away from where he was playing it, stopping by, chatting with the lad and buying his record. Hope you’ll like it too.

AEDHON/APSARAS
Rite of Initiation
(Independent, 2015)

-Genre: instrumental

This album cannot be purchased online. Contact Josh Newton for inquiries.
Follow the artist via his Facebook page

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About The Author

Nicolas Pelletier

Mélomane invétéré et rédacteur agréé, Nicolas pratique la critique en mode olympique: il parle de tout, tout le temps, depuis 1991. Il a publié 6 000 critiques de disques et concerts dont 1100 chez emoragei magazine et 600 sur enMusique.ca, dont il a également été le rédacteur-en-chef de 2009 à 2014. Il publie “Les perles rares et grands crus de la musique” en 2013, et devient stratège numérique des radios de Bell Média en 2015, participant au lancement de la marque iHeartRadio au Canada en 2016.