- by Steve Rhodes Release Date:2017-04-28 Label: Consouling Sounds
The M62 corridor centred around Gizeh Records and their artists feels like a UK counterpart to Montreal's Constellation records, with a number of like-minded individuals broadly falling under the experimental/post-rock/chamber music banner, involved with many different associated groups. The main-stay of A-Sun Amissa, Richard Knox, Angela Chan and Owen Pegg, have all been heavily involved in groups such as Glissando, Tomorrow We Sail, The Rustle Of The Stars and Shield Patterns, though as A-Sun Amissa have limited the number of guests on their past releases. For The Gatherer, released on Belgium's Consouling Sounds, they have drawn in the talents from many harmonious groups from the Gizeh spectrum and beyond to assist, resulting in a complex, varied but consistently strong and expansive album that challenges the senses.
'Colossus Survives' sets the stall, foreboding from the off and throughout, a repeated brass fog-horn invades proceedings, like Talk Talk meets Einsturzende Neubauten, as beautifully shrilled and delayed Natacha Atlas voices permeate. Dark and droning, but not suffocating. Light piano keys add to the flow before heavy electronic drums enter the fray accompanied by high-end piano, howling saxophone and an emotional clarinet. It's an evolving and fidgety track as nothing stays the same for any length of time. The lighter moments are dominated by trickles of piano and viola, bringing respite to the tense surroundings, especially at the close.
A haunted fairground introduces 'Anodyne Nights For Somnolent Strangers' as deeply distorted and decayed guitar sounds and field recordings are joined by a shrieking violin. Heavy, repeated desolate guitar riffs appear, as the strings ominously smother the surroundings. Are you sitting (un)comfortably? Though the denseness is released the anxious strings hover like birds awaiting to scavenge a fresh carcass. Aidan Baker's deeply spoken and sat-back vocals, like Telstar Ponies' David Keenan, sit eerily, amongst the post-apocalyptic atmospherics. The Dead Flag Blues is like a nursery rhyme in comparison. The track continues to oscillate chillingly until unsettling and ghostly beats appear, ratcheting the tension up several notches. Sampled African voices that border on an argument don't exactly dispel the atmosphere as the song slowly drifts to its conclusion
The darkness continues with 'Jason Molina Blues', named after the late founder and mainstay of Songs:Ohia and Magnolia Electric Company, as chiming clocks begin proceedings, sounding like a death-knell, as a mournful viola, in the vein of Dead Can Dance at their most harmonious, takes centre-stage, as the background noises act as a rhythmic heartbeat. The viola passes the baton to a saxophone that powers its notes from wailing abstraction to yearning forethought, before both join forces in a bleak but emotional tête-à-tête, as the background sounds, organ and subtly plucked guitars increase in prominence.
There is no let up with 'The Recapitulation'. The beats drone heavier, pulsing through the headphones and the atmosphere remains ominous, though lighter elements try to break through such as a haunting guitar and a disembodied voice. Just as your settling down the beats return with a vengeance and wreak havoc on the senses. Colin H Van Eeckhout's mantric vocal, not a million miles from Brendan Perry or Glen Johnson, is joined by dark keys, guitar strums, strings and an unrestrained saxophone, before the vocals and sounds drop out leaving strings, distant humming background sounds and samples to wind the song down to a quietening close.
It feels like each contributing artist has been given free reign and with the plethora of guests and instrumentation involved it's difficult to produce a focused and cohesive result but The Gatherer is a stalwart effort in controlled improvisation. An intense, bleak and powerful record and one full of masked, unrelenting beauty.