SASAMI - SASAMI - - Soundblab


by Mark Moody Rating:7 Release Date:2019-03-08

If you were tasked with compiling a list of musical badasses throughout history Yo La Tengo’s Georgia Hubley may not be the first name that pops into your head.  But she certainly deserves a spot.  She’s gone decades gently whispering through feedback squalls of indignities heaped upon her with nary a blip in her marathon runner like pulse.  Like a kitten lost in a blizzard with an “I’ve got this” air of confidence.  Though Hubley is very much alive and well, Sasami Ashworth’s (stylized as SASAMI) self-titled solo debut feels sonically ghosted by her presence.  That’s not meant as a detraction or to say that SASAMI (the album) is overtly derivative, but the comparison is hard to miss and Ashworth takes up the mantle well.

Ashworth’s worthy musical resume includes a degree from the Eastman School of Music as well as a several year stint with Cherry Glazerr.  From the froth she and Glazerr leader Clementine Creevy whipped up on their last tour, where Ashworth sang and played keys, you would think after their sets they would go out and terrorize the unsuspecting townsfolk.  Turns out Ashworth was working away on forging her own musical path and SASAMI makes for a promising start down that trail.

As that cheeseball 80s perfume commercial put into our psyche:  if you want someone’s attention, whisper.  Ashworth keeps her vocals in the lower decibel count regardless of what’s buzzing on around her and it makes an impact over the course of the album.  Things start off innocently enough on opener ‘I Was A Window’ where Ashworth’s breathy vocals sing of “a window into something you didn’t like” and the instrumentation, though giving way to some staticky distortion, meets her at the mark.  But things get more challenging and interesting on tracks like the following ‘Not The Time’ with fuzzed out guitar and a hard-charging pace.  The later and slower to develop highlight ‘Callous’ also has Ashworth traveling over undulating ground without spilling a vocal drop.  There she mourns dropping her guard with no reciprocation under a shower of synths and shakers - “I lost my callouses for you”.

Elsewhere SASAMI skirts a mix of Krautrock proggyness on the pulsing ‘Morning Comes’ and gentler roll of the layered harmonies of ‘Jealousy’. The former feels like Death Cab for Cutie’s ‘I Will Possess Your Heart’ is going to break out of it at any moment.  Maybe due to its minor key feel while still never breaking a forward moving stride.  The gorgeous duet ‘Free’ with Devendra Banhart makes some space for Ashworth’s vocals to take center stage and it makes for a poignant moment.  Ironically she sings there is “nothing wrong with a half-finished song”, but ‘Free’ sounds like YLT’s delicate ‘Green Arrow’ given words and taken flight.

Other softer moments like the brief ‘At Hollywood’ and hazy ‘Adult Contemporary’ also have Ashworth’s vocals up in the mix even as the latter gets more involved towards the end.  The layered vocals of the closing ‘Turned Out I Was Everyone’ makes for a beautiful low power departure with a soothing Bossanova drum machine beat underpinning it all.  Primarily Ashworth gives us an album of carefully engineered atmospherics that maintains an organic and humanistic vibe.  Whether the soundscapes she creates around her are brash or graceful, Ashworth’s vocals never break pace which makes for an arresting approach.  Clearly getting out on her own was the right step and most debuts don’t hold as much promise as SASAMI does.  Now that she’s on the map as a solo artist it will be interesting to see where her explorations take us next.

Comments (0)

There are no comments posted here yet
Related Articles