Dragon’s Eye Recordings
Release date:
November 18, 2022
Listen | Purchase:
Bandcamp | Spotify
Track Listing:
1. Near
Performed, composed, recorded, and mixed by Sam Ashton.
Mastered by Taylor Deupree.
Cover photography by Sam Ashton.
Cover design and layout by Yann Novak.
Press release:
Fortresses creates a soundscape of deep consideration and subtlety in Near, his latest release for Dragon’s Eye Recordings.

To enter in a new environment is to dial in to a different frequency, to hone the senses and tap into the energy that surrounds. When Fortresses spent time in Portland, Oregon and the surrounding regions, the Londoner found himself tuning into the Pacific Northwest, inspired by the climate and the natural landscape.

Similar to his previous DER releases, Spring and Eve, each sonic element is crafted and captured deliberately, immersing the listener in an intuitive means of tracking time as it passes; its units of measurements are organic markers of the present moment as it naturally progresses.

As he worked on this piece in the months that followed his formative trip to Portland, the memory of that ecosystem began to inhabit the track through the airy, rhythmic drone that slowly pulses with life. Gradually, like a living organism, the breathing expands, a consciousness awakens; new sounds, reminiscent of distant horns or a soft rush of wind gently integrate themselves into the flow.

Fortresses reflects on his excursion into unfamiliar terrain, recalling his walks deep into the misty forests of Oregon as a time of profound personal change. And there too is a sense of gradual evolution and nearly imperceptible growth in the slow build of the piece. The undulating rhythm imagines the depths under the cold waves of the Pacific, the swaying tops of ancient pine trees far in the woods, or clouds heavy with rain as they pass along overhead.

In its quietude, Near encourages the listener to lean into the lull, to find stillness, and further immerse oneself into the sound. It captures the heartbeat of nature. In its steady gathering of the rhythms it recapitulates, Near becomes its very own lifesource, humming into being in a new world.

Foxy Digitalis
Sam Ashton’s Fortresses project gets lost in the mist-filled forests on “Near.” Elliptical synth patterns constantly ring, rising and falling with the breath of an unseen force. Rain patters gently to imbue “Near” with organic textures and depth, underpinning the distant birdsong. Emotive chord progressions are layered with subtle gestures, moving and shifting slowly in the way overcast skies feel impermeable but gossamer just behind the surface. Everything here is muted but emotionally dense, adding weight to each note. Entering this space with intention allows us to immerse ourselves in the rich, pensive soundscapes to let our thoughts flutter away on rising electronic vistas. “Near” changes unhurriedly, knowing the moments before the destination will last the longest. Beautiful.
Igloo Magazine
“Best of 2022”
Igloo Magazine
Sam Ashton (aka Fortresses) delivers “Near,” an almost 10-minute composition that simply stands alone, drones and all, its spacious and surreal audio passage drifting just outside the margins, and within “the swaying tops of ancient pine trees far in the woods.” The Londoner, according to the release page, “found himself tuning into the Pacific Northwest, inspired by the climate and the natural landscape.” We wholeheartedly agree with the artists’ inspiration. As “Near” transitions from waving tones into ethereal soundscapes and sonic escapes, its aural hues are simply sublime, subtle, and all-consuming. A calm and natural mood wraps the senses as this piece is able to transport us via captured field recordings. “”Near” becomes its very own life-source, humming into being in a new world.” Such a powerful ambient excursion dips and dives through the unknown and offers a captivating treasure-trove we should all experience.
ATTN Magazine
Assembled after the London-based composer took a trip to Portland, Oregon and the surrounding natural spaces, this 10-minute piece evokes the moment that the senses acclimatise to a new environment. A heightened, crystalline sensitivity emerges in the midst of new aromas, different humidities pressing upon the skin, or the sound of unfamiliar birdsong. It is cyclical, or respiratory rather, with the breath assembled in mosaic from wind-rustled leaves, soft plumes of chords and recurrent cicada jets – an acknowledgement of how these sensory experiences enrich the awareness of one’s own body, folded into footsteps and inhalations. Textures surge, fall quiet, surge again.

Yet despite the immersive immediacy of this space, it nonetheless carries the surreal, chronologically unspooled air of a memory. There’s an ambiguity over whether we are there – back in Oregon, walking through the forest – or simply remembering it. Does the distinction even matter when we’re lost in the fullness of daydreaming? Reverb is applied in varying degrees, rendering some sounds crisp and others in semi-recollected spectres, while some sounds are more overtly looped than others, as if inviting reappraisal for a reason that escapes consciousness. 10 minutes isn’t long, but you can re-enter Near any time you please.
Stationary Travels
In October of last year, multidisciplinary artist Sam Ashton debuted a new ambient project under the alias of Fortresses with Eve, a triptych of introspective drones that took listeners through the arc of a day spent on the streets of his hometown of London. Almost exactly a year later, he brings a similar approach to a new piece called Near which was inspired by time spent in a location half a world away – Portland, Oregon in America’s Pacific Northwest.

The now familiar markers of Ashton’s hushed, contemplative style abound in this new piece permeated by field recordings of rustling forest breezes and birdsong which convey the essence of the locale while serving as a backdrop to exhalations of melody that rise & fall in the cadence of slow, deep breathing. The effect is to portray not just the sense of the place itself, but the atmosphere around it and the sense of being immersed in its stillness and light. Anyone who would welcome a healing microdose of pastoral beauty need look no further.

Using Format