A-Sun Amissa: You Stood Up For Victory, We Stood Up For Less
Gizeh Records

Admittedly, it's hard to not think of (early) Godspeed You! Black Emperor during the opening minutes of A-Sun Amissa's You Stood Up For Victory, We Stood Up For Less when Richard Knox's reverb-drenched guitar sketches out a mournful pattern that's deepened by Angela Chan's complementary viola and piano playing (for the record, the textura review of 2012's Desperate in Her Heavy Sleep debut album drew a connection from it to Godspeed's 1998 release F# A# 8). The duo's decision to present two long-form settings on the sophomore A-Sun Amissa album also suggests a shared sensibility between the outfits. Knox and Chan are, incidentally, familiar partners, as both also lend their talents to the Glissando and The Rustle of the Stars projects.

They wisely distance A-Sun Amissa's sound from Godspeed's by making the bass-clarinet of guest Gareth Davis a key part of the album's sound-world (it's worth noting that its two tracks initially were conceived as drone guitar pieces, and that bass-clarinet, viola, vocals, field recordings, and piano were subsequently added). When his woodsy tone emerges during part one, its meditative drift both naturally blends into the haunted backing and separates itself from it due to its distinctive timbral quality. At times, it pierces through the thick ambient-drone generated by Knox and Chan (and the other guest, guitarist Owen Pegg) like a scythe slicing through dense undergrowth. The second setting opens with a percussive episode that hints at a greater degree of animation, but a dark guitar-laced drone quickly takes its place to establish a portentous, even doom-laden mood that grows progressively murkier as the minutes pass. Once again Davis makes his presence felt, this time adding free jazz-tinged runs that somehow manage to avoid being sucked into the undertow churning below, as does Chan, whose viola playing (doubled by her voice) emerges most clearly during the track's hymnal coda. What also recommends the album is that, at nineteen and seventeen minutes, its two hypnotic settings provide ample room for the music to develop fluidly and the various instrument sounds to appear with an unhurried grace.

March 2013