The latest in the career of the ever evolving project A-Sun Amissa is about to be unleashed with their fifth full length album “For Burdened and Bright Light” following on from 2018’s “Ceremony In The Stillness”, being released on September 13.
“The music of A-Sun Amissa has evolved some-what naturally over the years, drawing from elements of dark-ambient, post-rock and minimal doom but always with a leading experimental edge and a huge amount of room to push the boundaries back as far as possible. For Burdened and Bright Light feels like the next logical chapter in the journey…The two compositions found here are underpinned by vast ambient passages that are drenched in distortion and reverb, slowly unfurling before more industrial, kinetic sounds are introduced and heaving guitars come to the fore. As ever, there’s a melancholic dissonance that resonates throughout, repetition is key and moments of dread are paired with shafts of light as these two monolithic pieces unravel themselves over the course of forty minutes.”
For this album project figurehead Richard Knox (of Gizeh Records, Death Rattle Press and Smiling Paper Ghosts to name a few) continues to push the music forward, soaking up influences and elements from other styles and like a musical magpie taking these items to create his own musical vision. There is no surprise that the label, much like the artist himself is usually cloaked in black. The music is definitely of the darker strain whether it be in intensity or in mood. The direction the label has moved in recently with the likes of Hundred Year Old Man has rubbed off and is most obvious on the first of the two tracks in “Seagraves”. Unlike the previous album Knox is only joined this time around by two collaborators: David Armes on Lap-Steel and Claire Knox on Clarinet which when you consider the depths and layering within the album shows that the vision is a rather self contained one and one that can be clearly executed in a minimal fashion.
“Seagraves” opens the album and my initial thoughts were that the music was heading in some sort of power electronics meets doom view. Knox weaves electronics and organic instrumentation through passages that sound like they are influenced by dark ambient, throat singing and electronic noise before heavy drones supply a bottom end and change the final texture of the intro aspect of the piece. Guitar parts, Clarinet, piano, electronics and drone take you far away from where you came signalling a change in feeling, before a dark bass strum or Sunn0))) like guitar drone cuts through it. The atmosphere changes to one where you feel abandoned, yet not alone. Dark spectre of sounds cascade around creating an sonic environment of desolation.
It’s from this hostile environment that the music rises from its almost barely there feel into a powerful dervish of guitars that screech, soar and doom while industrial beats that sound like clattering metal chains match distorted electronic pulses. This section of the piece rises and falls to the point where the atmosphere is one of flickering looped wind swept sounds. This the latest movement, which I am losing count on, starts rather minimally from these looping sounds with ethereal drones and guitar alongside a piano motifs before Knox savagely shocks you with a dramatic increase in volume, intensity and weight by announcing just were the track will you take you in its final five minutes. By choosing to use a drum machine takes out the predictability of the heavy take on the music and adds a more mechanical heart to the piece. Knox magnifies the intensity of the music by inserting a burst of silence which makes you think it’s a glitch, but in fact it is intended and it works because it re-shocks you once more. One thing you notice is that buried deep within is a melodic touch as to show that A-sun Amissa don’t mind leading you into darkness, be it in the mood or volume, but there will always be something there that indicates a light at the end of the tunnel. In fact my favourite element of the piece would be the piano lines that are used sparingly, simply because they offer a touch of beauty that is surrounded by brutality.
“Breath By Breath” slowly evolves with a cold, slightly harsh that is infused with choral qualities. Claire Knox ‘s clarinet really changes the colour and shape of the music adding a tone that was largely obscured on the previous track. That said, there is a similar swell of sound tying the two pieces together and the knowledge that where we were just taken could see us return to those heavy depths. The contrast between this track and “Seagraves” is the time in which the music moves through space. It isn’t rushed as the drone become longer, before the section slowly dissipates to a near silence punctuated by Armes’ ghostly lap steel. At roughly this halfway point a section of barely there distortion, a rolling guitar line and pointilist piano build in loop like repetitive fashion before fragile piano lines indicate a change with earthy bass lines and distorted cymbal crashes being joined by heavily treated distorted guitar that threatens to engulf the piece, instead it creates another layer to the piece that is similar to its opening. Eventually the damn wall is burst and the intensity of a Doom meets Post metal sound breaks through only for the briefest period initially, before there is an avant garde inspired breakdown before returning once more. After a further experimental section a moving drone that has the hallmarks of a slightly warped cassette meets wind blown ambience carries the piece through to its end. This part sees some more of the avant garde or experimental approaches subtly revealing their sounds and textures.
It is impossible not to compare the the two pieces (or sides) of this album. Thankfully both inhabit their own space and not merely find A-sun Amissa repeating themselves. Instead what you find is a different approach to each side in both instrumentation and approach to the construction of the pieces. I lean towards to “Seagraves” as my preferred track because of its intensity, clarity of vision and overall affect, although the Clarinet and lap steel work on “Breath to Breath” should be noted for the effect they have on the piece.
With the A-sun Amissa project picking up influences and collaborators and reflecting them across their album’s it will be interesting to see the next adventure that Knox takes us on. “For Burdened And Bright Light” is available on various limited white vinyl pressings, CD and Digital on both the Gizeh and Consouling Sounds labels.