AMN Reviews: Bashan – EP 1 (2017; Bandcamp)

Bashan is Gemma Thompson, guitarist of the post-punk band Savages. Known for her expressiveness in that context, she takes her skills in a new and different direction on this, her first solo release. Inspired by the imagery of American painter Morris Graves, the four tracks on this EP use guitars, field recordings, voice, harmonium, and percussion to interpret his art.

Thompson goes beyond merely playing her instrument in a conventional fashion. While the album includes subtlely-plucked arpeggiated chords, her main focus is on slow-moving, atmospheric effects and wind-swept drones. The harmonium and field recordings combine with the guitar parts to the point where it can be difficult to determine how much each is contributing to the overall sound. Thompson also makes heavy use of loops and processing to provide several layers of simple, but rich, overlapping themes. The final track is the only offering with voice, featuring inobtrusive spoken-word elements barely discernable over the music.

These pieces are forlorn and melancholy, but thoughtful and involved.  Thompson has created a compelling and detailed aesthetic and emotional statement. Hopefully, she will continue to explore this path.

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