One of last year’s most warmly received archival discoveries was Talk to the Sea, a collection of unreleased recordings by the Italian musician Gigi Masin. His debut album, Wind, self-released in 1986, is an understated gem that falls somewhere between Balearic ambient music and secular new age, with echoes of Harold Budd, Jon Hassell, and Arthur Russell‘s World of Echo. It’s not terribly well known, but those who have heard it tend to be passionate about it. A former radio DJ, Masin has done other things over the years, including a 1989 split LP with This Heat’s Charles Hayward, on Sub Rosa, and, in the ’00s, a handful of recordings for small Italian labels. But he’s remained largely under the radar. I had never heard of Masin until I encountered Talk to the Sea, released by the fledgling Amsterdam label Music From Memory, but its impact was immediate—if “impact” is quite the right word for a sound so warmly, woozily amniotic, a sound entirely without hard surfaces or sharp edges.
Masin returns here as one-third of Gaussian Curve, a multi-generational ensemble that also includes the Scottish musician Jonny Nash, a founder of the ESP Institute label and member of the synth-besotted softronica act Land of Light, and Amsterdam’s Marco Sterk, better known for his woozy house productions under the Young Marco alias. Nash and Sterk first met Masin in the fall of 2013, and they wound up briefly jamming together in the house of a friend. The three musicians reconvened in Amsterdam in early 2014, and they ended up completing eight tracks in a single weekend. Clouds is the result of those sessions, and it’s every bit as dreamlike as the musicians make the weekend sound. “It was almost like we weren’t involved,” Nash told Juno Plus. “It just slipped out.”
The eight songs here, all instrumentals, feel less like standalone pieces than variations on a common theme. They share similar instrumentation, and they’re all uniformly limpid and languid. Masin sets the tone, and the pace, with slow-moving chords on acoustic piano or Rhodes keyboard, while Nash and Sterk flesh out the songs with gently meandering electric guitar, wispy synthesizer pads, and, occasionally, trumpet and melodica. Given the trumpet, the music often brings to mind Jon Hassell’s Last Night the Moon Came Dropping Its Clothes in the Street. A few songs feature rudimentary drum-machine programming, mostly just tuned toms and woodblocks, that might be mistaken for dripping faucets. To call it “atmospheric” would be an extreme understatement. (On the closing “Red Light”, they hold a microphone out the studio window and record the voices and footfalls of the alley outside.) It probably bears as much in common with watercolor as it does most electronic music.
While the music unfolds with about as much drama as a smoke ring wafting towards the ceiling—about as much consequence, too—these are masterfully crafted mood pieces. In the opening “Talk to the Church”, Masin mimics the chimes of a bell tower that loomed over the trio’s studio, his chords gently bouncing and swaying, enlivened by millisecond-long syncopations and subtle shifts in volume. And despite the limited palette and the uniform tempos, they wisely change keys for virtually every song. So while the view remains the same, the light shifts, ever so subtly. True to the title, the experience of this short album, just 38 minutes long, feels a little like a time-lapse film of clouds crossing the sky—of day turning to night, and back again. With the closing “Red Light”, the music returns to its original key, and it feels like things have come full circle. The logical response—my response, anyway—is to resume the cycle, and launch into the daybreak bells of “Talk to the Church” all over again.
from Album Reviews – Pitchfork http://ift.tt/1Bnktlx