A-Sun Amissa is the brainchild of Richard Knox (Shield Patterns, The Rustle of the Stars, Gizeh Records) who is joined by a wide range of collaborators. The Gathering includes an astonishing number of great musicians including Aidan Baker, Claire Brentnall (Shield Patters), Angela Chan (Tomorrow We Sail, Lanterns on the Lake), Aaron Martin (From the Mouth of the Sun), David McLean (Gnod, Tomb Vision Records), Frédéric D. Oberland (The Rustle of the Stars, Oiseaux Tempȇte, FareWell Poetry, FOUDRE!), Owen Pegg (Hundred Year Old Man), and Colin H. Van Eeckhout (Amenra, CHVE).This amalgamation of great experimental artists brings an eclectic array of instruments to the table including flute, clarinet, viola, cello, sax, piano, hurdy-gurdy, and the like. To call A-Sun Amissa ambient or simply experimental in their approach to music would be missing the mark. There is, under the obvious ambient and experimental nature of A-Sun Amissa’s work, a clear and present jazz influence throughout. The emotive textures of the album go from shades of light to dark, hope to doom, restfulness to uneasiness, and all the emotive moments in between.
The Gatherer opens with “Colossus Survives”. The drones are clearly created with various stringed instruments and horns. There is a sort of chaos here that evokes an uneasy atmosphere, but not quite to the point of being uncomfortable for the listener. Because of the textures chosen, there is also a contrasting inviting element. Piano is sprinkled into the mix with whining guitar sounds. At 2:30, a drum beat kicks in, coated in a little reverb and delay-heavy. This gives the composition gravity at this point, with its deep pulses. This eventually fades and, I think, a flute plays a dissonant sounding line while drones swell and the beat becomes central once again. The horn work then rises up in the mix and there is definitely a jazz feeling that fills the air and the lumbering beat keeps moving the track forward over fluffy drones. There is an explosion of strings, horns, and drones that eventually fades and a calm atmosphere fills the void. There are pensive piano lines over twittering ambient noises. It’s mesmerizing and soothing. Eventually, all the noise fades and piano is left, naked and open, to play out the piece.
“Anodyne Nights for Somnolent Strangers” begins with spacy sounds and undulating textures. Guitar is played, with a slight biting edge, and strings move in and out of the mix as they sing out with long trilling melodies. Then, there is a calming moment as electronic noises and textures create a bed for eerie strings to float across. A voice sings, buried in the mix like a ghostly being floating under all the aural matter. Midway through the track, the entire compositions is pensive and allows for open spaces in the soundscape. Creaking and violin/cello move in and out of the mix with an almost unnerving sound sitting just beneath the surface. If one listens closely, the chirping of birds is present, but not in the forefront. This natural element is buried, subdued, under control. The tone shifts slightly around 10:15 as light percussion is mixed in and synth voices sing out amid more unsettling tones. Then voices burst into the speakers. It’s a conversation or an argument in heavily accented English. Layers then begin to be stripped away and the track fades into silence.
“Jason Molina’s Blues” begins with a fuzzy-edged drone and various bells ringing and chiming. Beautiful, mournful strings play somber melodies over the lumbering drones. Then sax enters and it’s like the listener is transported to a smoky nightclub from the 20’s. It’s a wonderful, transformative moment. Stings become more and more layered, bringing a variety of textures that play against the sax. It’s both a magnificently stunning piece and also quite disturbing. The last song on the disc is “The Recapitulation”. It begins with an ominous, deep tone that reverberates through the track with light, scratching noises and electronic flutters moving about the soundscape. There is an industrial feel that eventually fades into an eerie soundscape, picturesque and spare. Sax comes into the mix and then a vocal around 4:30. Once again, that jazzy, smoky club feel returns, with a sort of Twin Peaks vibe. This vibe is peeled away to reveal a portentous, almost empty soundscape with noises and tones rising and falling throughout this quieter of moments on the album. The song eventually fades out, but there is a patience to the ending, stretching out the mystery it weaves in its abstraction.
A-Sun Amissa’s conglomeration of talented artists creates an explosive set of long-form, experimental tracks. The free-form jazz elements, so central to A-Sun Amissa’s, are brilliant here but they are only there to serve a much larger and more profound agenda. They serve the overall feel of the music, placing themselves alongside ambient and rich textures that move in and out of aural spaces, like old feelings coming back to the surface and then reposing again. If the measure of great music, especially instrumental music, is to evoke feelings, to change them, to transport people to different times and places, and to arouse memories, then The Gatherer very much hits the mark on all accounts. My suggestion? Buy a copy of this album, put headphones on, turn out the lights, layback, and let A-Sun Amissa take you on a rather chaotic yet ecstatic journey through aural soundscapes. The Gatherer will be released on 4/27/17.
Buy The Gatherer here .