2011 was the best year yet for Gizeh Records (FareWell Poetry, The Rustle of the Stars), and 2012 looks to build on that strength with the first full-length release from A-Sun Amissa. The band unites Glissando’s Richard Knox and Angela Chan with Owen Pegg and Florence J. Fawcett. Fawcett only plays cello on two tracks, but her contributions are essential to the project’s overall success. The combined effort of the performers yields a palpable sense of alchemy.
It’s always a wise move to launch an ambient album with its most active sound, and the chimes of “Rusted Clocks Sing Faded Hymns” make a lovely beginning. This allows the listener immediate access; some of the other tracks require patience before their secrets are revealed. Later in the longer piece (whose overall title is “Arm in Arm to a Full Awakening”), a crackling fire produces a slightly ominous tone. In its wake, a western guitar emerges like a gunfighter left for dead. Drones rise like dust clouds from spurs. While the tone never quite tips into the darkness, it is clearly comfortable with shadow.
Fawcett’s presence is most clearly felt on “A Hungover Whisper”, the album’s longest and strongest track. Here, the cello steps out from a supporting role to offer a flurry of impressionistic images. At times the strings wax melodic; occasionally they squall like an unnoticed beggar. Ironically, in such cases, comfort is provided by the same instrument that calls for it. The bass provides a central 8-note theme that keeps the pace while the cello recedes. When both play in tandem, their consummation is exquisite.
In the final minutes of “Ceremony”, as the album begins to draw to a close, it flirts with silence – a beautiful declaration that makes the listener yearn for just a little more. And so it continues, a quiet encore, a peaceful parting. (Richard Allen)
Release date: March 26
Arm in Arm to a Full Awakening: Rusted Clocks Sing Faded Hymns/Woven/Nomere