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(85 min CD/DVD, 'Mandalic')
TRACK LIST: Side I - "Heavy Petals" (60 min) 1. Dark Murmur 2:15 2. Global Incantation 4:22 3. Paean 2:51 4. Fall So Hard 5:10 5. Healing Senses 4:18 6. Blue Worlds 5:04 7. Shelter Skelter 3:28 8. Free 5:44 9. Sliding Universe 1:52 10. Lambent Spire 6:42 11. Beloved 4:06 12. Living Inside My Head 3:25 13. Waking the Dream 4:56 14. Sound of Tears Forming 1:56 15. Those Ghosts 3:29 Side II - "Healing Senses" (5.1. surround sound DVD, 23 min) 1. Free 5:47 2. Lambent Spire 6:42 3. Healing Senses 10:36 LINEUP: Marvin Ayers - cello, violin; piano; sampling; vocals Sonja Kristina - vocals; electric & acoustic guitars
Prolusion. The project MASK hails from England and is a joint effort between the famous former Curved Air singer Sonia Kristina and composer, violinist, pianist and producer Marvin Ayres. "Heavy Petals" is a two-sided CD/DVD album. I've also heard one of Marvin's solo albums, "Scope", the review of which can be read here.
Analysis. Surprisingly (and thankfully), there is almost nothing in common between "Heavy Petals" and "Scope", the hero of this review depicting Mr. Ayres as a true composer, who certainly knows from where he came and where he goes in his musical explorations and whose original vision of music is beyond question. Even the three pieces with lightly rumbling processed violin solos at the fore: Healing Senses, Sliding Universe and Sound of Tears Forming appear to be sensible, partly due to Sonia's beautiful ethereal vocalizations. The opener, Dark Murmur (the only fully instrumental piece here), is the slow, yet, steadily developing interplay between violin and cello, falling squarely into the framework of symphonic Ambient. It lays the structural basis for the next two tracks, Global Incantation and Paean, each also featuring Sonia's vocalizations and, in places, her playing softly on electric and acoustic guitars. Shelter Skelter is a kindred thing, though there are also programmed percussion and drums, bringing a certain ethnic sense, and Marvin's wordless singing. There are a few more compositions on the album where Marvin does occasional vocalizations, but all the vocal parts with poetical assignment are Sonia's department. The 'electronic rocker' Living Inside My Head can only conditionally be called a song, as all the lyrical content represents just one phrase, the title itself, Living Inside My Head, very originally drawled by Sonja throughout the track. Each of the mentioned tracks has its own merits in a general sense, but will hardly satisfy a traditional Prog lover. The other seven compositions (precisely half of the album) are much more promising in this respect. The songs: Fall So Hard, Blue Worlds, Free, Waking the Dream and Those Ghosts fully suit my concept of a full-fledged (read: slightly Prog-tinged, at least pronouncedly symphonic) Ambient, most having almost a full-band sound, due to their lushly saturated sonic palette and the solidly sounding programmed drums as well. The primary soloing instruments are still violin and cello, but there also are a lot of patterns of piano, acoustic guitar and just vocals, which are really an essential part of this music, Sonia's singing being as diverse and beautiful as at the time of her heyday, the Curved Air years. The remaining two songs are excellent in every respect, although there are only passages of cello, violin and acoustic guitar, plus (very heartfelt!) vocals. Filled with a pronouncedly sad atmosphere, Lambent Spire immediately associates with Gothic, ambient and Classical music, while the ever-changing Beloved is just a piece of chamber Classical music with vocals. This would certainly be the brightest diamond in the seven-section diadem of genuinely interesting compositions. The album's 'Side B' presents the DVD versions of the songs: Free, Lambent Spire and Healing Senses. The abstract pictures alternating with the images of cathedrals and those of various manifestations of nature, often intermixed with each other like in a kaleidoscope, serve as visuals, imparting more impression to the music, save Healing Senses, which is overtly overextended here.
Conclusion. "Heavy Petal" by Mask is one of the best and most progressive works of Ambient I've heard in years, though, to be frank, I can't boast I have heard much Ambient in my life. All in all, much of this pretty uncommon album leaves a pretty strong impression. Those liking the idea running all through the review should not fear to check it out. Decent music.
VM: February 2, 2006
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