A-Sun Amissa is one of the projects helmed by Gizeh Records boss Richard Knox (who also runs the Smiling Paper Ghosts Design and Art Company as well as Death Rattle Press). A-Sun Amissa has had a cavalcade of contributors over the projects five albums including members from Nadja, Tomorrow We Sail, Hundred Year Old Man, Shield Patterns and artists such as Aaron Martin and Christine Ott.
“Ceremony In The Stillness” is the follow-up to 2017’s “The Gatherer” which was released on Belgium’s Consouling Sounds label, while this is a co-release with Gizeh and Consouling Sounds. Known for their forays into dark sonic territory, it feels that Knox’s involvement in releasing Hundred Year Old Man records may have rubbed off on him.
“A-Sun Amissa is the project of Richard Knox (founder of Gizeh Records and member of The Rustle of the Stars, Shield Patterns and Glissando) and while Knox takes the central role on Ceremony in the Stillness, again we see several collaborators contributing to the record. “Ceremony in the Stillness” hints at themes from the previous three outings while very much pushing the project into new territories. The intricate nuances and lulling melodies from “Desperate in Her Heavy Sleep” (2012) reappear while the billowing guitars of “You Stood Up For Victory, We Stood up For Less” (2013) are referenced throughout. In comparison to 2017’s “The Gatherer” it’s clear there is a firmer direction in the song-writing as the album weaves through elements of doom, dark ambient and post-rock, placing its very own unique mark firmly into the ears of the listener.“
“The Black Path” ominous synth lurks in the background before washes of heavy strummed reverb soaked guitar that brings forth a menacing sound. The guitar sounds like a fusion of Doom Metal riffs played by a traditional Alt-Country guitarist. The riffs are left to hang out and fill the space with their heavy chords. The sound is layered while a feedback drone complimenting the guitar and also accentuating the mood of the piece. A third of the way into the track the textures and tones changes. The guitar drops out to be replaced by Jo Quail’s unfurling cello alongside dark ambience, with a more relaxed guitar sound gently being strummed. Almost suddenly the track roars back into life, with two guitar pieces and, for the first time on a A-Sun Amissa album, drums by Acherlon’s Tj Fairfax. This combination of instruments makes the track sound like a fusion of Doom meets Dark Ambient meets Post Rock and really sets the bar high for the remaining five tracks, such is the impressive nature of this piece. At the end of the track under the weight of the riffs, the track falls apart to a series of fraught cello and guitar drones.
“With Wearied Eyes” a tense build of a variety of sections and styles of drones, such as long tensile obese and other short fractured ones build a base for intertwining contemplative guitar. As the notes state: “the atmosphere harks back to the debut album”. The atmosphere is thick with intrigue which the tracks title articulates perfectly. Shimmering and ringing guitars with a tone that reminds me of “A Hungover Whisper… Thin Light Failure. Decay” from “Desperate In Her Heavy Sleep”. Most notably it carries on where the opener left of in regards to fullness of sound. The pace is not rushed with an emphasis on building layers of rich sound, thick with tension and emotion.
“To The Ashes” a similarly relaxed introspective guitar opens the track with dark drones burying deep in the background. There is a separation and depth of sound which allows both elements to share equal focus. Fairfax’s drums and more guitar sections arrive taking it into the more conventional song route, but holding back a little in the heaviness of the guitars, so that it is its own beast and not a continuation of “The Black Path”. What becomes a revelation in the track is Knox’s piano which has this glassy fragility to it and finds a nice centre section for it to embed between guitars and drones. After an atmospheric section the track opens up once more in the Post Rock tinged Doom/ Post Metal stylings of before which features a nice layer of different tonal guitars and shows a clear thought out complete composition.
“The Skulk” features David McLean on Saxophone and Christine Ott on Ondes Martenot. McLean appeared on 2017’s “The Gatherer” while Ott released the “Only Silence Remains” and “Tabu” and albums in 2016 on Gizeh. Definitely the most experimental piece on the album, the track is to me, about slow burning sounds and creating atmospheres, rather than as a more traditional song form. The saxophone melds in with the drones and the Ondes Martenot adds melodic touches to the track. The definition of “Skulk” is to “keep out sight, typically with a sinister or cowardly motive”. Musically “The Skulk” gives off a feeling of the dark passages where someone may be hiding, slightly out of sight not visible, but observing what is going on with sinister intent.
“No Perception Of Light” eerie sounds swirl over slight pulsing electronics while a series of oscillating sounds hover. Extra electronics and modern classical piano add to the varying tone of the piece that covers many spheres of sounds including a distorted drone. Crunching electronic beats pair nicely with the feedback drones before they fade away and are replaced with guitars, baselines and more distorted drones. The percussion has a military feel to it (alongside electronic bears that are complimentary) which anchors the series of swirling drones and guitar lines from flying off. Knox then builds the track up with multiple guitar lines which further the track out and create this ever rising beast. Towards the end the sounds ebb and you feel that it’s about to start-up once more after an interlude, but this is the end of the track which could easily build up once more and almost double in length. The way the track ends simply leaves you wanting more.
“Remembrancer” backwards scraping sounds, fragments of guitar, light and dark drones lead on through to a rich sounding guitar section that is looping in nature (as are the screeching noises underneath it). A building atmospheric sound of moving drones and haunting strings make way for the full sound of layered guitars, punishing drums and bass lines and in a way bring the album full circle, without copying its opener. The track then changes tack completely and ventures into Modern Classical / Drone territory which is strikingly beautiful and haunting with a tinge of melancholy weaved in it. The track is the most musically diverse of the record and finishes it on a high note. The way the music twists and turns and flows from style to style is effortless and enjoyable.
Would it be fair to say that this is the finest A-Sun Amissa album? I think so. Knox has been musically active for over a decade and a half as well as releasing other people’s music via his Gizeh imprint. With this album you get the feeling that he has been distilling all his musical knowledge and this is what he has come up with. The album is a rich rewarding listen that is multifaceted. The more you listen to it, the more illuminating it becomes, especially if you take notice of the many layers of activity included in each track. The album consists of six tracks with each of those being standouts in their own right. Knox and his collaborators take the listener on a sonic journey which is deeply engaging. If you are looking for music that is full of atmosphere, rich sounding, excellently composed and beautifully presented, then look no further. Totally Recommended.