It seems fitting on the one year anniversary of this blog to finally get ’round to reviewing Lorenzo Masotto’s “White Materials”. This time last year Masotto’s “Aeolian Processes” was the first ever review. While the former album came out on the Russian label Dronarivm, this handmade album in an edition of 200 copies was self released. The album features the voice of his wife Stefania Avolio and the violin of his sister Laura Masotto on several tracks each.
“Window” opens the album with fragile environmental electronics, piano and layered voices before being joined by a jazz like brushed percussion sound. The piano holds the pace while the other parts progress the track, but this doesn’t diminish the importance as it asserts itself as the track progresses. The playing is controlled with emphasis on creating a mood that is emotive but without being saturated in melancholia. As the track progresses the playing becomes more fluid and lyrical. The percussive elements while present for the majority of the track change in focus throughout it. In the beginning you feel it will be more dominant, but then it becomes more complimentary to the track.
“Doors” strident piano playing, electronics, drums and violin form the basis of this track that due to the nature of drums gives it a post rock feel that almost hints at Amon Tobin like breakbeat in sections. The piano forms the heart of the piece that if it was a solo piano piece you would be very happy listening to it. Adding in the forceful and inventive percussion and the exploratory violin which appears to be searching out new territories, the piece in taken to another level. The elements work so well as they are not trying to keep the music together in a singular fashion, rather they are about complimenting and then extending it outwards.
“Chopin Plays on the Radio” backwards electronics scatter around ever so slightly, while jazz like percussion that focuses largely on the cymbals and synth tones join flowing light piano lines. The synth lines are fast, but in a way mirror the piano lines with similar, but distorted tones. The drums tend to drive the changes in the piano and the pace of the piece. The synth sections add an extra melodic quality that gives a depth to the sound and gives a different furl to the track.
“Fratalli” opens with stark piano keys alongside has Laurie Anderson – esque repeating vocal sections before the piano leads into a more fairytale feel with layered harmonic singing and playing that matches the vocals. The starkness of the sections with the opening keys that reverberate offer a real counterpoint to the other sections. A section of vocal experimentation that is similar to that in the beginning , but with more layering and a cut up feel acts as bridge back to the fairytale section and places an emphasis on the importance of vocals towards the track in particular and the album as a whole.
“Trees” long minimalistic piano keys are paired with mournful, but at times distant violin that leads the track firmly to the modern classical genre. The violin replaces the vocals of previous tracks for the emotive part of the music. The piano feels heartfelt while the violin in the way it soars, screeches, plucks and at times ‘cries’ feels like its distraught and shows the various stages of grief throughout its playing.
“Like a Jackson Pollock Painting” electronics and a shuffling percussion joins up with piano, bells and some sort of wood instrument with cut up sections of looped vocals to create a down tempo piece that is quite relaxed but also has a hypnotic feel to it. The piano feels lyrical in its lines while the other elements such as the vocals and the bells and beats giving it a slight motorik feel.
“Cera” glassy tones ricochet from ear to ear before grand style piano and vocals lead to the track into a sweeping large-scale track. Snatches of electronics briefly make their appearances subtly adding to the track without taking away the importance of the piano and the vocals which by now, are layered into a sweeping and soaring sound scape giving the feeling of a mini choir. The piano flows smoothly changing from section to section with differences in tone noticed as the feeling goes from hope in some sections through to more strident playing that conveys a sense of finality.
“Return” hand played percussion, breakbeats and fast fractured repetitive electronics are joined by piano that has both a percussive and melodic lyrical approach. This is the first track where electronics have appeared to take on more of a central role to that track, almost overpowering the piano in the early stages. The electronics start dropping out and reforming in a slightly different configuration. The track feels a bit splintered as for the most part the elements on the album have been complimenting or mirroring each other, but this track they inhabiting their own spaces. It is a track to re-listen to get a perspective on.
“Fragile” glitchy melodic tones bounce around with a sense of fragility bubbling up before minimal piano, jazz cymbals and fractured beats come together to create a fluid cinematic piece that feels like a traveling piece of music. While the majority of elements are minimal or doesn’t mean that the track is built around nothing, it is the opposite – the smaller elements allow for space to which the elements can interact and their micro melodies can expand out. The quality of tones contained within the track and the constant rhythm make for an enjoyable listen.
“Nightcall” features more melodic tones that have a Balinese feel with their running percussive reverberating rhythms, slicing violin and rolling piano keys. The violin gets frantic as the piano increases in intensity while the tones maintain their pace. The violin lends the track an off kilter feel as its changing styles and pace are diametrically opposed to the other parts. Fast cymbal crashes welcome the next section of inspired playing lifting the intensity and the free form violin to new states. Despite the difference in the violin, it actually adds another feel to the track, like it’s another voice or narrative to the track and the fast flowing playing is conveying different emotions.
So far I have been lucky to have heard two of the four albums Masotto has released. I have got to say that neither have disappointed me. In a world of many pianists that are attempting to carve out their own little plot of land, Masotto does it effortlessly and with a natural ability to create sound scapes that are enjoyable to listen to with a lot of variety. Recommended.