Desperate in Her Heavy Sleep
That Desperate in Her Heavy Sleep plays like some lost second disc to Godspeed You! Black Emperor's 1998 release F# A# 8 shouldn't be construed as criticism of the debut album by A-Sun Amissa, a newly hatched outfit that pairs Glissando members Richard Knox and Angela Chan with long-time friend Owen Pegg. The new release evokes the earlier one in multiple ways, from the stark packaging (its text is set in an eroded typewriter typeface, plus there's even a suitably bleak passage written by Knox on the inner sleeve) and track titles to, most critically, the music itself, which retains many of the earmarks of the early Godspeed sound. The opening piece, “Arm in Arm to a Full Awakening: Rusted Clocks Sing Faded Hymns / Woven / Nomere,” for instance, weaves church bells, fiery crackle, and shuddering tremolo guitars into a deep meditation that would sound right at home in the Godspeed set-list, and, in keeping with that group's strings-and-guitar emphasis, two of the A-Sun Amissa tracks add cellist Florence V.J. Fawcett's playing to the trio's own guitars and strings. That Desperate in Her Heavy Sleep also suggests kinship with Labradford and Set Fire to Flames is likewise no slight upon the A-Sun Amissa recording, which isn't, however, its first, as Hibernate Recordings issued Beneath the Heavy Tides as part of its three-inch postcard series last fall. For the record, the group laid down its hour-long collection of dark ambient-classical dronescaping between September and December of 2011.
In true Godspeed spirit, A-Sun Amissa has an appetite for extended meditations, with the longest, “A Hungover Whisper: Thin Light Failure / Decay,” plunging the listener into a powerfully plaintive sound-world for seventeen minutes. Mournful strings, guitars, and dark ambient shadings conjure a haunted, reverberant soundtrack for the end of days, and for one funereal minute after another, cello, violin, and guitars quietly wail, as if caught within some slow-motion death spiral. Whereas the awesome “Speechless Turns: Hung Up / Rejoice Me More Than Mine” dives into the deepest depths of the inferno, the more rapturous “Ceremony” ascends heavenward, its low-pitched hum lending the piece a Popol Vuh-like quality that nicely counterbalances the whistling tones that otherwise dominate and that almost completely take over as the piece progresses. Hearing the material slowly evaporate also provides a not unwelcome counterpoint to the harrowing intensity of the preceding tracks. Knox in particular has been on a bit of a roll lately, seeing as how Desperate in Her Heavy Sleep is his follow-up to The Rustle of the Stars, his splendid late-2011 collaboration with FareWell Poetry member Frederic D. Oberland (Chan also appears on the album, incidentally). He maintains the high standard of that collaboration on this new A-Sun Amissa outing, too.