FROM CVLT NATION:
One label that I always go to when I want to hear music that is pushing sound to the outer limits is CONSOULING SOUNDS. A-Sun Amissa‘s The Gatherer is a new record coming out on April 27th, and just like many of Consouling’s releases, there is no way to put it into a box. One reason is because this music is as free as the wind, and with each listen it changes shape and direction. More than being songs in the normal sense of the word, A-Sun Amissa creates soundscapes that move hauntingly in and out of your brain, leaving you with a forever changed mindstate! CVLT Nation is stoked to be sharing with you The Gatherer in full, and you can pre-order this sonic ride HERE!
The new A-Sun Amissa album 'The Gatherer' is now available to pre-order from Consouling Sounds or Gizeh Records. Released April 28th on LP, CD and Download.
PRESS RELEASE IN FULL.
A-Sun Amissa return with The Gatherer, their first release since 2013 and a debut for Belgium-based label Consouling Sounds.
Led by Richard Knox (Shield Patterns, The Rustle of the Stars, Gizeh Records) and featuring a wide array of collaborators, The Gatherer is a sonically different beast to the band’s previous releases. The sound is denser and the free-dark-jazz elements of previous outing You Stood Up For Victory, We Stood Up For Less (Gizeh, 2013) are expanded upon. Thick, subtle, reverberating drones underpin the four tracks found here but the palette is expanded. Electronic beats are featured for the first time, field recordings flit in and out and the band as a whole push into new, heavier territories with melodic saxophone and clarinet motifs intertwining and leading the way.
Collaboration is key here and The Gatherer sees a host of fine musicians involved, including; Aidan Baker (Nadja), Claire Brentnall (Shield Patterns), Angela Chan (Tomorrow We Sail. Lanterns on the Lake), Aaron Martin (From the Mouth of the Sun), David McLean (Gnod, Tombed Vision Records), Frédéric D. Oberland (The Rustle of the Stars, Oiseaux Tempête, FareWell Poetry, FOUDRE!), Owen Pegg (Hundred Year Old Man), Colin H. Van Eeckhout (Amenra, CHVE). Each one bringing something unique to the table, each one carefully marking the record with their own vision and sound. Jack Shirley (Deafheaven, Oathbreaker etc) mastered the record to 2” tape at his Atomic Garden studio in San Francisco.
The intent is signalled early on as Colossus Survives opens with droning saxophone notes, accompanied soon after with hypnotic electronic beats before exploding into a free-jazz workout with clarinet, saxophone and viola all uniting to form an overwhelming noise. Thick guitar tones introduce Anodyne Nights For Somnolent Strangers before it subsumes into an inextricable world of droning strings and Aidan Baker’s hushed vocals. The delicate and ponderous viola introduction on Jason Molina’s Blues sweeps you gently along before the saxophone creeps in and takes over in the album’s centrepiece. The track then begins to collapse and disintegrate with new sounds entering and falling away with visceral, disorientating regularity. Finally, The Recapitulation completes this quartet of compositions with an altogether more haunting, menacing tone. Trance-like electronics draw you in before Colin H. Van Eeckhout’s meditative vocal delivery, coupled with evocative saxophone and clarinet, collide to form a seductive conclusion to The Gatherer.
• Aidan Baker + vocal • flute
• Claire Brentnall + clarinet
• Angela Chan + viola • vocal
• Colin H. Van Eeckhout + vocal • hurdy-gurdy
• Richard Knox + electric gtr • field recordings • electronics • processing & fx
• Aaron Martin + cello • singing bowl
• David McLean + saxophone
• Frédéric D. Oberland + electric gtr • piano Gaveau • mellotron • hurdy-gurdy • pocket piano • processing & fx • Owen Pegg + electric gtr • processing & fx
• Recorded (mostly) at Cloud Blunt Moon (Glossop, UK)
but also at City#1 (Leeds, UK) & Magnum Diva (Paris, FR).
• Arrangements & production by Richard Knox
• Mixed by Richard Knox & Owen Pegg
• Mastered to 2" tape by Jack Shirley at The Atomic Garden (San Francisco, CA)
• Sleeve design by Richard Knox
By Chariot of Black Moth.
With Mirror Breathing, the Manchester-based duo enrich their electro template with fuller arrangements and an intimate, affecting narrative. They talk us though the creative development behind their second album“The approach was quite different this time. We moved house and we spent a long time doing it up, and Claire had these new songs – she was very clear that they were going to be the next record, but we didn’t really have anywhere to work. But we managed to build the studio and, as soon as that was done, we just got to work.”
Richard Knox reflects on the genesis and realisation of the follow-up to Shield Patterns’ staggering 2014 debut Contour Lines with a wry smile. For an act whose entire being is grounded in the DIY ethos, it’s more than just rolled-up sleeves that propels their art. But with visual design, PR, tour management and release (Knox runs Gizeh Records, the label he founded in 2004) managed solely by him and partner Claire Brentnall, it’s a timely reminder that in the modern industry, logistics and commerce increasingly throttle the business of making music.
That music begins with Brentnall, a classically trained musician whose distinctive vocals and lyrical acuity defined much of their debut. This time around, with the template in place and ready to be explored, the Shield Patterns sound is fuller, expansive, fearlessly free. Acclaimed cellist Julia Kent plays on three tracks – “I just asked her," says Knox, "we were thrilled when she said yes” – but her contribution aside, Mirror Breathing is a leap of some magnitude. A deftly sequenced work, its soundboard of keys, clarinet, deeply-layered electronica and stark beats showcases the duo’s best songs to date.
Mirror Breathing: Connections and impermanence
That title holds the key, though. Is there a double meaning in there? Fogged glass? Or, on reflection, a more fulfilling notion of co-existence and hearts beating as one? Brentnall nods: “That’s really nice that you’ve seen it that way because I love the duality of the words of that phrase: mirror breathing. It does conjure the picture of breathing on a mirror and I’m kind of obsessed with this idea of impermanence at the minute. But the primary function of it was connection, and so when you actually synchronise with someone, and when the breathing is matched, you achieve that kind of connection with other people: feeling part of something as well as recognising that you are this impermanent thing – this tiny thing in this universe.”
After Contour Lines, Shield Patterns subsequently released the four-track Violet EP, a chill work that brutalised the elegant melodics of their debut. The rich and complex arrangements of Mirror Breathing blur the line between melody and beats.
“I started writing almost immediately after the first album was finished,” says Brentnall. “Four of the songs worked quite well together and they formed the EP. They seemed like, as you say, this kind of dissonant thing compared to the album. The first album for me was about finding a way to communicate. I’ve always been very shy and making music was something that felt right, like a way to kind of express something I never found the right way to express. I’m not very good at speaking.”
Is that true?
“Well, okay, expressing how I feel... I think I’ve got better. I was always very shy and would struggle to actually say how I felt. The first album was kind of finding a way to communicate and now the second album is exploring that communication and those connections, and feeling part of the collective. That was, for me, the main impetus for this album: finding meaning in connection. It’s more about love and hope, I think, this album.
“I find writing music and lyrics very cathartic,” she continues. “I wouldn’t say that we are a political band, it’s more of an emotional questioning, trying to figure out why we’re here. I do sometimes feel overwhelmed by stuff but at the same time I love feeling really small. I love feeling that we are so fleeting. It’s a musing of sorts. It’s about starting a conversation.”
Mirror Breathing carries a deep emotional charge. Lyrically, its intimacies emerge as an often harrowing internal dialogue but for the listener, that sharing can provide a satisfying consolation. You hope the same applies for Brentnall. “Oh god, yeah. Making music is everything to me. lf I didn’t have that in my life... well at one point I didn’t, and I felt like there was something missing. If I’m not making music, I start to get anxious. The music helps, definitely.”
We talk about the arithmomania that gives the band its name: a routine that has affected Brentnall since she was a child and that causes her to create mental patterns with numbers and words in a bid to stave off anxiety and concern for the people around her. “Well, I’ve come to realise that it was a symptom of having a set of base anxieties; it’s something I’ve worked on a lot,” she explains. “It’s about finding ways to work with it because it does calm me at times. Like, for example, doing an interview – what I’m saying is being recorded and that’s really important to me, but while I’m doing it, I’m making this kind of pattern with my hands. That’s where where the name of the band came from. It’s something that I’ll probably always do my whole life. But now I’m starting to understand it better.”
Knox picks up on the theme: “This is a tangent, perhaps, but do you remember when Cameron did his resignation speech and there was that whole furore about when he turned around and sang a little tune? What’s the big deal? The Prime Minister of the country has just given up his job and we jump on him for that? To me that just showed his human side. I mean, I dislike the guy intensely but it showed a human quality. Whatever insanity is going through his body when he turns and walks away for the last time, that’s the thing that comes out: him humming a little tune. We should try to understand rather than ridicule.” He laughs. “We’ve got plenty of other material to ridicule him with.
“The name is really overlooked with this band,” he continues, “and I've been thinking about how we can make more of that.” It tells the story. “Yeah, it does. It’s a really good name but you can misunderstood it – it can come over as really shite!”
Who else sounds like us?
"Mirror Breathing is eminently accessible, and while the world overflows with boy-girl electro duos, Shield Patterns eschew the vogue modes – their complex aesthetic is a world from ersatz disco or monochrome industrial. They’re unique (Knox agrees: “Who else sounds like us?”). Where the album really succeeds is as an album: a longform piece; an out-and-back adventure. It’s not made for random play. It starts pensive, builds dread, finds comfort (or, at least, clarity) by the time closing track Glow shudders to a halt. “Well, it started out as a collection of songs,” explains Knox, “but then you have to figure out how they work together. We had a beginning and and end early on. We had five songs in the middle where we had a distinct flow. It was a challenge but one I think we met.”
After the release of debut Contour Lines, Knox was intrigued by a friend who’d said that Shield Patterns wasn’t what he (Knox) thought it was. Has that changed? “No. Not really,” he says. “I’m not sure what it is, really. It’s been a very different process making this album but, no, it’s still unclear in some ways.”
Brentnall offers her take: “The first album began because of some songs I’d written solo, before I met Rich. Then for this one, I basically took six months off work and decided to put everything into making it, and we worked really intensely on it together. It’s been a really nice process but I don’t know – I kind of get the fear once an album is finished, so now I’m like, 'Fuck! What comes now?' I kind of like the fear and I’m also a little bit shy about it. But I feel so proud of this one and it really matters to me that it connects with someone else. Even if it’s just one person, than that’s brilliant.” She smiles and shrugs. “And if people don’t like it, then that’s fine as well.”
Alright - this bad boy is now out in the great wide open.
Purchase it from Gizeh Records HERE. The limited vinyl is long sold out but standard version and CD is still available.