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More Than Skin Deep: Beauty In The Breakdown’s Neon EP

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L.A.-based electronic/dance-pop band Beauty In The Breakdown is set to break out big-time with the release of its debut EP, Neon, on May 20th. Neon plays more like a mini-album than a brief EP, with 7 original tracks and one remix that pack in catchy, dance-pop energy, complex instrumental arrangements, reflective contemplation, and insightful lyrics. Neon was recorded at Sun God Studios in Tarzana, L.A. and produced by Sahaj Ticotin.

Beauty In The Breakdown is led by flame-haired frontwoman Chastity Ashley (the touring percussionist for Duran Duran) and she is joined by Ian Alexander, Alexandria Reyes, and Tim “Sonix” Rouse. Ashley is a native of the Highland Park neighborhood in Los Angeles and her desire to create and perform music was sparked by going to local concerts and catching such legendary acts as Santana and War. She studied at the Percussion Institute of Technology and soon became an in-demand percussionist in various bands.

While Ashley was successful in her career as a percussionist, the idea of creating her own music called to her strongly and in 2013 she formed Beauty In The Breakdown with Alexander (guitar). They added Reyes (bass) and Rouse (keyboards, synths) to the line-up and ran through the music festival circuit and other venues, building up a tight live performance unit and gathering up a growing number of devoted fans.

The tunes on Neon mainly keep up the dynamic energy of their live performances, starting with the amped-up, ebullient EP-opener “Satellite”. This ode to love is filled with short-strummed guitar refrains, a fast-clacking beat, and shiny, lightly ringing electro notes which form a vibrant background for Ashley’s clear and sweet vocals as she sings brightly “Got me wide awake and dreamin’ / You give love a deeper meaning.”

Next number “It’s Not Too Late” throws some shadows into the mix with its low-tone electronic grind and sharply smacked percussion and drum beat, but its pace and lyrical content are upbeat. Ashley exclaims positively and directly that “I know that there’s no need to hide / and nothing’s ever black and white / so don’t run from the light.” Ashley’s percussionist skills are showcased at song’s end, where she briefly breaks out with a couple of blazing percussion solos. “Around The Word”, which features DJ Rap, incorporates a strummed acoustic guitar motif and prominent, pulsing EDM rhythm. The spinning sonic whirlwind is given a lighter touch with Ashley’s cheerful lyrics as she declares radiantly “Nothing in the world can bring us down from where we are.”

Bittersweet symphonic strings and a marching beat run through the lament “Falling Forward” as a mildly forlorn Ashley ruminates about a broken-up relationship, wondering if “…maybe things… might get better / or maybe things just stay the same.” Percolating electronic notes and shaken percussion support Ashley’s emphatic vocals as she reminisces “I still wish you were around” and “Every memory I had / like a treasure in my mind.”

Nineteen seventies-infused dance grooves inform the infectious, uplifting “Deep Love”. It’s peppered with reverb electro-notes, zingy synth lines, a clapping beat, and swinging chorus. Ashley proclaims “You gave me hope / when my hope was gone.” on the first verse and is accompanied by a bevy of backing vocals on the flowing chorus sections. “Ride” plies a smooth vibe on its laid-back verses and then moves forward with mellifluously picked guitar lines, lower bass line strum, and a shuffling beat.   A quicker, choppy tempo builds up on the chorus as Ashley comes in with the encouraging advice to “Just…take a chance.”

Symphonic strings and acoustic guitar strum start off the bleak, but then finally life-affirming “On My Way To Die” which delves into a failed relationship that was marred by “lies” and “shame”. The beginning guitar lines fade away as a measured tempo of pronounced drum hits, reverberating electronic notes, and zig-zags of synth distortion come in. Poignantly pulled symphonic strings underline Ashley’s stark lyrics that “…if you do come back to me / it doesn’t mean you’ll set me free.” The situation and her mindset seem extreme, but then Ashley has a revelation that she brings to life with her powerful voice. She realizes that after being traumatized “There’s nothing left in yesterday.” and while the old self may “die”, she can “renew” herself and free herself from the past. It’s a potent statement to make – complex, empowering, and richly rewarding.