Crate-Digging: Of Asaph – …What a Wonderful Day It Was

(Transmission 3000, 2000)

What happens when there’s very little in the public historical record – do you have to make stuff up? Something just didn’t occur, or doesn’t exist, without reason, without a series of thoughts and actions that propelled that something into being. Behold: “The mighty God, even the Lord, hath spoken, and called the earth from the rising of the sun unto the going down thereof” (Psalm 50:1 KJV).* See? Something thought, spoken, done. The band Of Asaph is the same – conceived in mystery and shrouded in darkness, they have nevertheless left behind an artifact that, while not as grand as the earth, per se, is at least a pretty good indicator of their prodigious and powerful talent.

*Why this psalm? The band takes its name from a line of Israelite priests called the Asaphites, and the byline preceding Psalm 50, as well as others, is “A Psalm of Asaph.” According to Wikipedia (our all-knowing lord and master), “The Asaphite priests had a pre-exilic role to provide musically-based or induced prophecy, and a post-exilic role singing praise to God.” So what is the band trying to tell us through its music? Hopefully not “Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence: a fire shall devour before him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about him” (Psalm 50:3 KJV). That would ruin my day, actually.

See, Of Asaph do not have much in the way of released music to their name, but that’s OK. It makes the unearthing of what you can find that much more satisfying. I’ve combed search engines, mind you, and have pretty much come up with listings of scripture, like the one above, or this thing. I’m pretty sure that’s not the Of Asaph I’m talking about. So I don’t even know if I’m filling in the historical gap much in this case. I’m as clueless as you are. I have my ears, sure, and a couple of morsels of information, but other than that I’m kicking uselessly at a great dark expanse, hoping to connect with something solid, and whether or not I break my foot in the process is beside the point. Shouldn’t I be forgiven that the mere fact of their existence registered like a cobwebby half dream?

And then they came up on shuffle.

Oh yeah, that’s right. Of Asaph. I’ve had this little record, …What a Wonderful Day It Was, kicking around in my iTunes library forever. I’m always pleasantly surprised when peeks its head out of the ground, gracing my ears with its presence. You know, it’s right up my alley too, especially the me from 2000, which is when it came out. Math rock tempo hopping? Check. Wordless emotive interplay? Check. Louisville, Kentucky, location? Check. It’s a turn-of-the-century indie geek’s dream, a mix of June of 44’s seasick rhythmic bobbing (“James Vernon but They Call Him JV”), Slint’s vision of a post rock future without all those damn “post rock” bands (you know who you are) (“Everybody Needs a Papaw Jack”), and The Appleseed Cast’s bombast meets Modest Mouse’s coke-jittery travelogues, sans vocals of course (“To the Tune of ‘Do Not Destroy’”). That oughta wet yer whistle, dunnit?

It should, and it better. You can still get this album. For free. From a little place called Transmission 3000. And once you see what this site’s all about, you’ll completely understand why I got all drooly over Of Asaph. T3000’s a live archive of some of the most intriguing post punk/post rock/post hardcore bands to ever grace the American music scene. Looky here: June of 44 (duh), Slint (ditto), Braid, Drive Like Jehu, Explosions in the Sky, Rodan, Shellac – it’s not an exhaustive list, but it’s longer than I’d ever expect. Spend some time there. So what if their last post was in 2007? Don’t worry about it – life will continue to go on.

Plug over – I feel like I’m all kinds of scattered here, like Of Asaph – or maybe it’s Transmission 3000 – is getting me fidgety or jumpy with forgotten nostalgia. I have the bullet points that you need for this, so you never have to doubt yourself when you’re clicking the song links on the site. (No, no zips, sorry.)

  • Band members: Kyle Noltemeyer (guitar), Brian Holton (bass), and Alex O’Nan (drums)
  • Recorded by Kevin Coultas 02.27.2000*
  • (Not a fact, but a guess): Sounds like it was recorded live in the studio without any overdubs, which makes sense, even though it’s not a “live” record – one date listed, offered on a site known exclusively for concert bootlegs, good band energy and interplay … again, though, all a guess

Only image of the band I could find, from the T3000 website. Sorry for the quality.

*That Kevin Coultas nugget didn’t register with me at first, then I realized, after a bit of rummaging around on the ol’ internet, that he does indeed have a deep connection to the Louisville and Midwest indie sound. Turns out Coultas was the drummer for Rodan, the post hardcore seed from which bloomed many a visionary band, including June of 44. Coultas also performed in Rachel’s and The Sonora Pine.

I’ve gone on and on about the minutae of this release, but the fact of the matter is, the music is still top notch, recorded well, and performed with great passion and dexterity. What a Wonderful Day is as innovative and interesting as its forebears and contemporaries, and the fact that Of Asaph passed into the Great Beyond after this single recording is too bad. Like so many others in that scene, they burned brightly and were consumed in the blaze. Like God did to his enemies. Old Testament, yay!

RIYL: June of 44, Slint, The Cancer Conspiracy, Crain


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