A-Sun Amissa ~ For Burdened and Bright Light

Gizeh Records founder Richard Knox is continually expanding his sonic horizons.  His participation in multiple collectives allows him to change masks and look at the world in different ways.  Even with A-Sun Amissa, he’s produced quieter works than this.  For Burdened and Bright Light is a battle between timbres of light and dark, soft and loud, with no clear winner.  The additional weapons ~ Claire Knox on clarinet, David Armes on lap steel, and an expanded use of electronics ~ allows for a wider distribution of moods.  Armes’ first appearance (at 3:19 of “Seagraves”) produces a tone of the old American West, and would not be out of place on Red Dead Redemption.  But the fact that this section rises out of a thick electronic morass marks the album as something different.  An oxygen machine seems to visit the fifth minute, hinting of injury and/or old age.  When the swirling electronics return, the track heads into GY!BE territory, an excellent place to occupy.  At this point, the listener knows that the post-rock is about to erupt from the chest of the drone.  After a few well-placed drum beats, it does.  A four-chord progression becomes a refrain, and off to the races we go.

A popular review phrase is I loved every second of it.  Now let’s flip the script.  There are two seconds of For Burdened and Bright Light that I don’t like, the mark in which the mood is broken: a sudden silence from 16:02-16:04 that should mark the transition to a huge explosion, but instead makes one wonder if the digital copy has been damaged.  This is not what one wants to experience after being narcotized by a steady stream of menacing music.  And while it may work in concert ~ the performers viewed by observers, incapable of producing such confusion ~ it doesn’t work here.  By adopting an electronic tilt, A-Sun Amissa has copied one hallmark of that genre (the chop), but only used it once.  The track might have ended better at 12:56, with a natural fade.  While this would have meant the sacrifice of a thrilling segment, it would have preserved the flow.  Only time will tell if this blemish becomes a beauty mark.

The 22-minute closer, “Breath by Breath,” has no such flaw.  A slow grower, this piece is also built on a four-chord progression, but given the time, it’s obvious that bigger things await.  Seven minutes in, the piece turns melancholic.  Whale song notes envelop the sonic field, displacing the former repetitions, until they themselves are displaced by piano and guitar.  The key shift stretches from 13:18-13:20: the same type of break as before, but with a bridge of feedback for the listener to cross. Over the next few minutes, the sound is massive: thick, loud and vaguely Arabic, imitating the world’s loudest snake charmer.  Finally, a five-minute cooldown arrives like the desert night.  The listener feels no longer burdened, but light, personifying the title.  (Richard Allen)

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