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In its most prominent incarnation, the free-improv noise duo Ascension was an offshoot of the Skullflower/Ramleh family tree, a loose collective of noise-rock bands with ties to psychedelia and early industrial music. Originally formed in 1992 by drummer/guitarist Tony Irving and bassist Russell Hedges, Ascension put out a couple of cassette-only releases before Hedges was replaced by guitarist Stefan Jaworzyn in early 1993. Jaworzyn was a veteran of the Matthew Bower-led noise-rock projects Skullflower and Total, and had also played with industrial provocateurs Whitehouse for a time in 1984. Jaworzyn's high-voltage guitar took Ascension in a much farther-out direction, and he soon began to issue their recordings on his already-established Shock label. The first of those was 1993's extraordinarily limited-edition EP (three copies) Three Titles, which was soon re-released by Dirter Promotions with one new track as Live/Dead. Their first proper full-length, Five Titles, was released in 1994 on Shock and culled partly from live performances. This started to earn them some attention from the free-improv community, and led to the formation of a side project called Descension, which teamed Jaworzyn and Irving with bassist Simon Fell and saxophonist/clarinetist Charles Wharf. Descension toured the U.K. under an Arts Council grant in 1995, and issued a live album on Shock as well.
Meanwhile, Ascension released its second album, Ascension LP, in 1995 on Fusetron, and opened for Japanese noise icons Merzbow that summer. In early 1996, they performed several live gigs for a Bay Area radio station, which were released later that year as the double-disc Broadcast album. That April, Descension opened two London shows for Sonic Youth; the second, at the Forum, was received violently by the mostly rock audience, who threw bottles and glasses at the group. The incident seemed to be something of a breaking point for Jaworzyn; although Ascension played several more gigs lasting into 1998, they issued no more recordings, and the Shock label was effectively put to rest. Jaworzyn did continue to perform on occasion with Alan Wilkinson. ~ Steve Huey
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