Will Mason Ensemble, 'Beams of the Huge Night,' New Amsterdam Records (REVIEW)

By Mike Greenblatt on Sep 19, 2015 03:07 PM EDT
Will Mason Ensemble The Will Mason Ensemble (Photo : Haley Straw)

New Yorker Will Mason is a multi-genre drummer taking time off from his noise-rock band, Happy Place, to concentrate on the biggest stretch of his life, Beams of the Huge Night by the Will Mason Ensemble, a group with voice, oboe, alto saxophone, two guitars, bass and drums. He wrote these six long tracks totaling over 70 minutes back in his home state of Maine, in a one-room cabin in the woods with no phone, no electricity and no running water. The idea was to experience solitude, and write music from that perspective. It took eight weeks.

Working with Radiolab producer Alexander Overington, he’s crafted his compositions into stylistic little adventures of sound presentations that owes as much to classical and indie rock as it does to jazz. The attention-to-detail is riveting. Oftentimes ornate and/or Baroque, he has, in his own individualistic way, achieved the musical parallel of isolation and all that it entails. As the charts get more complex, as the solos cry out, emotions like fear, awe and—most pervasively—unease are, indeed, communicated to the listener. In fact, there’s so much unease on these Beams that when the light peeks through the cracks, a sense of wholeness--or, you might say, a sense of relief--is thus induced. Digest this sucker whole in one sitting and a sense of accomplishment sets in, not unlike that of finishing a good book.

The night is, indeed, huge, when you’re huddling alone in the middle of nowhere with a pencil, paper and books. You try to stave off the mounting sense of dread when unknown sounds of the night (please don’t ask me which instrument played what) pop up unexpectedly. Then there's the spare, almost instrument-less moments of zen-like contemplation, serene moments of beauty yet accessible patches of understanding and ultimate happiness. It’s all there…but you have to listen hard. This ain't no Mudd Club or CBGB. He ain't got time for that now.

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TagsWill Mason Ensemble, Radiolab, Happy Place, REVIEW

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