A wholly different sound emerges from A-Sun Amissa on their new album ‘The Gatherer’. It’s the band’s first release since their albums back in 2012 and 2013, and joining A-Sun Amissa is a strong group of collaborators, ranging from Claire Brentnall (Shield Patterns) to Aidan Baker (Nadja). ‘The Gatherer’ is by no means easy, and the collaborators bring with them a range of experiences and influences that deepen and darken the entire release. In this worldly experience of music, the songs are compact and condensed, packed full of drones, interweaving melodies and lines merging from piano to saxophone, before the listener even realises it’s happened.
Each song ranges from 8 minutes to 15 minutes of trance-inducing instrumentation, from slow and ponderous drawn notes to the embellished ornamentations and mordents that sound as though they bring their classical instruments – saxophones, clarinets, violas alike – to breaking point, screeching on the edges of the bow and the reed, as the musicians explore the borders of musicality.
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It is ominous and wholly unsettling. Nothing like the light touch of ‘Part One’ and ‘Part Two’ of their most recent release, four years ago. But this album feels full of brash colour and uncertainty, with its chanting vocal lines doing nothing to lift this effect. There’s singing bowls from Aaron Martin, hurdy-gurdys from Frédéric D. Oberland and Colin H. Van Eeckhout, and so much more instrumentation to unpack and explore.
The total sum of it throughout the first three songs is fully befuddling, with only a small number of understandable musical components holding together the tracks and stopping it from collapsing into pure nonsensical noise. Finally, the last track ‘The Recapitulation’ slowly winds up this sensation, capturing the essences of the tracks preceding it to drag the album to its natural close.
Whereas A-Sun Amissa‘s previous releases can be enjoyed as background music, ‘The Gatherer’ can only be really appreciated in one immersive session. Arguably, ‘The Gatherer’ wins points for originality over A-Sun Amissa’s previous releases, although whether it is quite as easily enjoyable on an initial listen is another question altogether. For any drone listener, however, it’s a great addition to the catalog, with the songs requiring more than a few relistens.
The listener will find this album a sinister journey with its lack of structural and comprehensible elements. But at the end of each track, you’ll find yourself remembering to breathe again. And by the impressive conclusion of ‘The Recaptulation’, there’s the sensation of reemerging from the edges of something very difficult and painful after a prolonged trip within, an unexpected and cathartic release of tension you didn’t know you were holding.
‘The Gatherer’ is out now via Consouling Sounds.