Scott J. Mason
Songbroker / Bandcamp
Scott Mason is a multi-instrumentalist and composer based in Dunedin. Across the 90s and early 00s he was a drummer (primarily) in many bands and supporting artists. You probably saw him, or heard him – given he worked in, or with bands and artists like Slim, Mulholland and Gareth Thomas. And in an alternative universe, Gasoline Cowboy was New Zealand’s great mature indie-pop act; our Shins, or something like that. It never quite panned out in any actual tangible way, but those that know know…
Mason has rebranded a film composer and has here released an EP which feels a bit like it was the start of a longer project. And plays now a bit like a potential business card. It’s also complete in its way – an absorbing listening experience, which, over three tracks, shows you some moods and moves and feels and for Mason was a chance to go back to his first instrument, the piano. A compositional baseline for these three intense, lush instrumentals.
We open with the nearly 8-minute Back When/Horizon, its plaintive piano chords and supporting synth line gives across an immediate Trent Reznor/NIN feel – though it’s the Reznor of soundtrack work, and the Nine Inch Nails of their Ghosts series (essentially ‘soundtracks’). When the drums kick in, and the synths lift to give further shape to the composition I’m reminded of some of John Carpenter’s recent Lost Themes work. So it’s total wormhole/earworm material for me. I love this track and it’s been on repeat – both as part of the EP and on its own. There’s such glorious space within the track and a real sonic majesty to it, a real force. Another touchstone is Rhian Sheehan’s Stories From Elsewhere which, like this, brought in the power-ballad feel within ambient mood-scaping.
Next up is Preparation, dulcet balalaika brings a gossamer melody into place, again with supporting synths. I’m so locked into horror movie scores right now that I feel like I can hear this as real calm-before-the-storm within that context. I also hear the fusing of styles and different musical palettes that made the very best of Mike Oldfield’s work so intriguing. I’m thinking Ommadawn and Amarok by the way. Preparation has that glide to it. It’s almost balletic. But it’s arabesque creep towards the fringe of prog will be a delight to those in the know.
And then Full Circle (For Nick Knox) is the somber piano closer. The shortest track on this exquisite wee EP. Again, some Reznor. But that’s more in the world that builds up behind the actual piano line. Which of course is exactly the magic that Reznor conjures when he’s doing it best.
I’d love Mason to make a full-length album in this vein. But I get how hard that is, time and resources wise. So we’re lucky enough to just have this. And I hope it leads to more work in the film and TV industry. He’s ably demonstrated the chops he has and what he can offer with this ‘business card’. It’s been one of my favourite repeat-listening experiences across the last couple of months. Do check it out.
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