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Mar 26, 2019 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

It would be a misnomer to categorize Sasami Ashworth as simply a guitarist. The Los Angeles-based polymath has been stamping her imprimatur onto film scores, orchestral compositions, and recently provided her deft musicianship to Cherry Glazer as their resident synthesist. On her self-titled debut however, the guitar is the center of attention. Following the Captain Beefheart adage to “use the guitar as a divining rod,” Ashworth (who releases music simply as SASAMI) conjures whole musical worlds around her manipulation of this instrument. Whether swaying lethargically over synth swept bedroom pop, or emanating from taught Breeders-esque balladry, the guitar guides the hooks and provides the most ornate moments of departure. Take for example, the mutant lurch of the lick in “Not the Time” or the jagged multi-tracked solo in “Morning Comes.” It isn’t solely a guitar album though, and the synths play an important backing role in embroidering some of the more repetitive parts and the drums are alternately spacious and taught when called for.

Much of the album moves between the two extremes of vastness and intimacy. A track like “At Hollywood” is a pretty-straightforward piece of down-tempo guitar pop that sounds like it was recorded in a tiny room, but the vocals are slightly blurred and distanced, whereas a piece like “Callous” that verges on the grandeur of the Cocteau Twins contains vocals so closely mic’d you can almost hear the pauses in breath and the movement of lips.

It isn’t exactly a break-up album, but its themes are heavy on the pessimistic or fatalistic components of relationships. Songs deal with mutual deception and the bad faith that keeps us in bad relationships, and the difficult process of overcoming being used. The imagery is stark and on “Callous” Ashworth uses the image of callouses as a symbol of sacrifice, singing “I lost my callouses for you,” pitting the sacrifices of a musician against the sacrifices of a relationship. Though on occasion the album can seem to retread the same ground, there are enough interesting genre exercises (see the lithe space-funk of “Jealousy”) and dynamic production decisions to compensate. I hope she lets her freak flag fly higher on the next release. (

Author rating: 7/10

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