A-Sun Amissa - Desperate In Her Heavy Sleep
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Richard Knox and Angela Chan, as members of ‘Glissando’ and ‘The Rustle of Stars’, amongst various solo outings, have a lot of experience working well together, as their back catalogue undoubtably shows. But the duo’s new project as ‘A-Sun Amissa’ with long-time friend Owen Pegg has definitely moved them on to pastures new, and greener. With last October’s two- track release on Hibernate Recordings’ ‘Beneath the Heavy Tides’ acting as a prelude to full length release ‘Desperate in Her Heavy Sleep’, the trio deliver what Textura has described as a ‘sonic transcription’ of an H.P. Lovecraft tale.
And Textura’s account isn’t far off; ‘Desperate in Her Heavy Sleep’ stands apart from many artists of this same field in that, whilst simultaneously incorporating the best of both the minimalist drone and modern-classical genres, the trio manage to create soundscapes that are almost theatrical in their emotion, fit to be the audio backdrop of a modern tragedy (albeit one done in slow motion). Released on Gizeh Records on March 26th, hard copies are bound to be gone quickly. Album-opener ‘Arm in Arm to a Full Awakening: Rusted Clocks Sing Faded Hymns / Woven / Nomere’, after 15 seconds of church bells, encapsulates the sound of the entire album: strings - emotive but never tentative - rising amidst foggy layers of electronics, after which electric guitar, fantastic in its simplicity, slowly adds yet another musical dimension to the track.
As complex as all of that may sound, the reason this album works is the players themselves; too often can artists of this genre lose perspective in the overall sound, creating compositions that, although initially interesting, can be hard to listen to for more than half of their length. Knox, Chan and Pegg know when to restrain themselves on the album, never letting a passage remain longer than it is due before evolving onward and building the track to greater heights, even if this (seemingly paradoxically) means leaving the past music a mere ebb in the reverb behind the new ideas.
Yet this isn’t to say that ‘Desperate in Her Heavy Sleep’ is at total odds with their previous releases. Second track ‘Dislocated Harmony: Into Small Cold Eyes / Several Miles Above’ opens with three sinister minutes of far away guitar fighting through tremolo, glacial string harmonics and feedback combined with shuffling drums that are all too akin to marching feet, before somehow delicate neo-industrial white noise, soaked in layer upon layer of reverb, leads a slow waltz, fleetingly with strings, but then alone for the remainder of the track. ‘A Hungover Whisper: Thin Light Failure / Decay’ gradually builds from this same cello, violin and guitar formula, adding ever more intensity with shimmering cymbal noise a la Lê Quan Ninh (French percussionist of the highest order) and electronic sub-levels rooting the track deeper and deeper into its foundations. The interaction between players on ‘Desperate in Her Heavy Sleep’ is undeniably what makes it stand above other current / upcoming releases, and proves that it is longevity and the relationship between the musicians themselves is what leads to a group creating some truly magnificent noise.
Wrapping it all up, aptly-titled ‘Ceremony’ is as simple in comparison to the other tracks as it sounds from the title. Featuring naught but layers of raw electronic tones, the final track seems to validate the entire album, leading you quietly by the hand out of the dense cloud-world A-Sun Amissa have had you inhabit for the last forty-five minutes, feeling very much the significant, understated ending that such an experience deserves.
Desperate In Her Heavy Sleep is released 26th March and available to pre-order now here
Review by Max Hampshire