| Artist: MASK|
CD Title: Heavy Petal - The Tenebrous Odyssey of Jack and Virginia
Label: Mandalic Records/Globe Music Media Arts
Reviewer: Joshua Heinrich
Featuring the collaborative efforts of noted ambient/experimental composer Marvin Ayres and former Hair cast member and Curved Air frontwoman Sonja Kristina, MASK's debut, Heavy Petal - The Tenebrous Odyssey of Jack and Virginia, is an interesting foray into ethereal territory that plays on both artists' strengths. More concrete and grounded than much of Ayres' solo work, yet more abstract and experimental than the majority of Kristina's past endeavors, Heavy Petal is something of a nice hybrid, creating ethereal atmospherics around more coherent rhythmic and melodic underpinnings. Blending Ayres' strong production, vocals, string/piano instrumentation, sound manipulation skills, and fluid sampling with Kristina's vocals and guitar work, it's a compelling and varied song-oriented ethereal release.
There are certain pieces where one artist obviously has more input than the other. The opening "Dark Murmur", for example, is an Ayres-penned ethereal string piece, while the airy ethereal piano ballad "Those Ghosts" is written by Kristina. However, the disc's best material lies in the form of its more collaborative pieces. "Global Incantation" is a beautifully dark, lush soundscape carried by spectacular violin work and anchored by extremely interesting percussion loops, while the excellent "Fall So Hard" is a lovely modern ethereal trip-hop outing, complete with underlying breakbeat, with Kristina at the vocal helm.
Blending excellent strings and electronics, "Blue Words" is another spectacular Kristina-fronted journey into piano-centric ethereal balladry. The later "Free", on the other hand, is something of an airy rock number that's equally strong, notable downplayed processed instrumentation forming its backdrop. The almost theatrical "Beloved" is another standout, strong vocal work atop cascading guitar arpeggios and driven by more immediate string arrangements, while "Waking the Dream" is, quite possibly, both the most mainstream and most captivating track here, bass-driven psychedelic rock delivered through a haze of swirling atmospherics.
A highly impressive and emotive album, MASK's Heavy Petal is a spectacular album that blends strong songwriting with excellent production and sound manipulation. Those not particularly enthralled by Ayres' experimental, ambient solo work will find it filtered through Kristina's song-oriented tendencies, his lush sonic tapestries sewn into a form with more mainstream digestibility, supplemented by more abstract/experimental interludes. Likely to please fans of both artists' work as well as ethereal fans in general, this one's highly recommended.
MASK website: www.mask.uk.net
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