MASSERGY: Fire Opal (2019)
“When acoustics and electronics merge in symbiosis it gives unique moments of a surprising beauty, like here”
1 Vinesong 3:21 2 The Shepherdess 10:24 3 Lunar Cinema 6:25 4 Cold White Smoke 17:57 5 Fire Opal 17:17 6 El Viajero 5:25 7 La Extraña 9:25
SPM-3901 (CD/DDL 70:13)
(Ambient acoustic & electronic)
Another new name in the Spotted Peccary team! Massergy is the project of the American musician Eric Jensen, who lives in Austin, Texas. He has 5 albums to his credit and this 5th is the first to be released through the American label. Recorded mainly in the middle of the night with guitars and synths, without software or plug-ins, and a panoply of acoustic instruments, such as a great bass, percussions and flutes, FIRE OPAL takes us into an ambient territory with music that flirts with the roots of Jazz and Blues in a sanitized envelope built around the multiple dimensions of a conventional synthesizer. Creative, Eric Jensen weaves his rhythms with series of riffs and finger pickings that roll like the fruits of a sequencer, whereas there is none on FIRE OPAL. The synth shares its layers of mist and its organ tones with thin lines of voices and tender orchestrations with a such a nice melodious fingering, most of the melodies are very melancholy, that we easily mixed up easily to acoustic instruments. I'm mostly thinking here of flutes. FIRE OPAL is derived from Mexican folklore and is referred to as a stone that has healing and protective powers for those who bear it. For Spotted Peccary, it is a new sound dimension that goes in their vast catalogue and gives even more depth to this label that is constantly diversifying. In spite of the particular contexts of the recording, the sound esthetics is with the rendezvous with a good mastering from Howard Givens. Available for download and in CD format, the opus is wrapped in a nice 4-panel digipack presentation with a cover that does not reflect the nocturnal essence of an album that will require some listening, which I needed, so to grasp its full dimension. The adventure starts with the words of an acoustic guitar left in the light of the night. The guitar is elegant with a somewhat sad approach where the echoes of the strings tremble in the light rays of synth mist. We can easily imagine Eric Jensen, alone on his veranda at night, scratching his guitar while getting carried away in order to scratch furiously the soft strings of his acoustic guitar. From soft to hard and catchy, the acoustic aubade is haloed of orchestrations and layers of sibylline voices that Massergy will add later. Short, Vinesong leaves an interesting business card to the listener who is not quite at the end of his surprises here. There is no sequencer in this album! And yet, the opening of The Shepherdess sows doubt. A repetitive suite of finger pickings sculpts a rhythmic structure, a bit like a sequencer, with semi riffs dancing fluidly in the depths of synth layers which are galvanized with pastoral atmospheres. If one discerns a little better the work of the guitar, a line of bass and a tone of organ give a mystical cachet to these atmospheres which take control of the music a little after the 3 minutes. From this moment on, the approach becomes much more seraphic with thin lines of voices coming of astral goddesses which melt in the long organ tones moaning with a subtle sonic fluid of the synth. The guitar regains its rights in this ambiospherical phase with a well-drawn bass line which tries to bring its musical partner in a duet against more anesthetic layers. This duo embraces a more cosmic phase before The Shepherdess gathers its chords which have jumped with fluidity in its opening. Here you have the main ingredients and the evolutionary approach in the composition style of Massergy that intersperse on his first album on Spotted Peccary. Lunar Cinema is a more meditative title, and especially more electronical, with a synth line moaning like a saxophone charming the night and its stars. We have reached now the core of FIRE OPAL... After having pierced a wave of winds and reverberations, Cold White Smoke frees the guitar which sculpts its riffs and whose ascending movement accompanies a cavalry of bells ànd their delicate and harmonious clinkings. In the background, the synth throws sound filaments that unfurl like white ink slides in the darkness of the night. In fact, this title breathes more the beauties of the day than the mysteries of the night. Even if a rhythmic structure with a slightly sneaky air strides the panorama. The first part proposes a rhythm decorated with elements of atmospheres, whereas the 2nd part offers elements of ambiances decorated with effects and solos of guitars which are abandoned to the night. Percussive elements tingle by adding a spectral vision, making a counterweight with the sustained rhythm of the beginning which beat on the vibrations of the bass. Organ layers float in the background, preparing the return of the rhythm which has animated the opening of Cold White Smoke. The long title-track takes back the navigation of synth waves with tonal colors of organ and of an ectoplasmic dialect. This more complex title and the less accessible in FIRE OPAL offers an opening with ambiences of a night offered to hell. Guitar and synth layers unite their Mephistophelic visions with nice abyssal colors that join the long roars of ambient drones and its sonic eyes full of threats. It's a very dark title, with some elements of tenderness that balk here and there, but not enough to remove of Fire Opal its veil of this night offered to the darkness. Behind long laments with dark feelings stretched to the maximum, El Viajero offers another semi ballad for acoustic guitar. Softer and more nostalgic than Vinesong, the acoustic guitar scatters its notes in synth shrouds, from which the orchestral arrangements draw a few sighs in a neglected soul, and murmurs of a voice that one would like to be the accomplice of our nights. La Extraña goes out of tune in this environment where the electronics coexist equitably with the acoustics by proposing a slow title, almost an ambient blues. The bass line is ubiquitous with long notes all dressed of blues which sound as if one hears a double bass. The keyboard chords are falling into the sinister ambience woven by the organ tones of the synth with a tonal color that is pretty like Pink Floyd's, and the guitar lays down solos which seem unfinished and have the blues to the soul. This is one of the titles in FIRE OPAL that asked me a few listening, the same goes to the title-track, but in the end, I enjoyed this union of electronic and acoustic from Massergy. A nice and fascinating discovery from Spotted Peccary.
Sylvain Lupari (April 18th, 2019) ***½**
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