Madison's Luke Bassuener creates sharp, cynical songs in his solo project Asumaya. Info
Madison musician Luke Bassuener loops voice, percussion, bass, and thumb piano into the tense, resourceful songs of his solo project Asumaya. Bassuener often seems to be writing from the point of view of a character, often a privileged American traveller or power broker figuring out how to dispense with the vulnerable people and struggling societies he encounters around the globe. I always come back to one line on the song "And Lucky," from Asumaya's 2015 album The Euphemist: "When my fit hit the ground, everybody better talk like me." It's an incredibly pithy expression of white Americans' arrogance and entitlement on the world stage, both cataclysmic and gruesomely comic.
Bassuener's writing inhabits a great deal of cynicism without quite giving into it: Even when dissecting American exceptionalism on the song "Outsider," from last year's Omniphobic, he invests his work with a steely humanity and empathy for all those the West abuses and others. The music itself draws from two main sources of inspiration: the skewed rhythms of post-punk and the vast array of musical traditions Bassuener has encountered on his trips over the years to countries including Ghana and Ethiopia, where he's worked as a teacher and volunteer, and even recorded and collaborated with local musicians, as documented in the ongoing Bawku West Collective series.
Omniphobic is definitely Asumaya's darkest work so far. Bassuener laces these songs with fears both real and imagined, and examines how those fears have brought our American politics to this paranoid, dangerous moment. Bassuener recently celebrated the vinyl release of the album, and will perform his deftly executed one-person arrangements in this intimate show at Revolution Cycles on Atwood Avenue. —Scott Gordon