ALBUM REVIEW: Gigi Masin – Calypso

7/10

ALBUM REVIEW: Gigi Masin – Calypso

The Italian, Venetian born composer, Gigi Masin has probably moved into the veteran category in the world of electronic ambient music. “Wind” was his debut album, it was privately pressed in 1986. Unfortunately, Masin’s house was flooded and the majority of the copies where ruined. In 1989 “Les Nouvelles Musique Du Chambre” was released on the Sub Rosa label. In 1991 the “Wind Collection” was released, then  “Lontano” in 2001, but it wasn’t until 2002, when Bjork sampled “Clouds” on her song  “Its In Our Hands” that real interest in Masin and his music started.

Masin then joined forces with Marco Sterk (AKA Young Marco) and Johnny Nash to release two albums as Gaussian Curve. On the Italian label, Hell Yeah, Masin recorded two more albums with the electronic dance group Tempelhof. Then, in 2018, Masin returned to making solo music with the self-released album “Kite.” 2020 and “Calypso” is the latest solo project from Gigi Masin. A double album, mixing organic instruments and electronic ambient music, over 16 songs. It will be released by Apollo Records on the 28th of February.

“Calypso” was inspired by Masin visiting the Greek Islands and in particular the Island of Gavdos. The title is taken from Greek mythology and Homer’s Odyssey. Calypso was a Goddess nymph, a daughter of the Titan, Atlas. She was inhabiting the Island Ogygia (said to be present-day Gavdos) Odysseus was shipwrecked on Ogygia and Calypso fell madly in love with him. She enchanted him with her singing and offered Odysseus eternal life and beauty if he would stay and marry her. Seven years passed before the God’s finally instructed Calypso to set Odysseus free, to continue his journey home.

Ambient music is always at its best when it’s worked around a concept. After all, the composer is attempting to make soundscapes, trying to create an atmosphere and paint pictures in the listener’s imagination. The double album opens with the sublime title track “Calypso.” Instantly Masin sets the scene and tone. You are transported to sun-kissed beaches, gentle waves lapping around your ankles, ancient and beautiful, timeless coastlines. A dreamy, lazy, warm and mellow sound, with the slightest whiff of intrigue, mystery and danger. It’s almost like listening to the opening pages of a novella of ancient God’s and Goddess, magic and monsters.

The soundscape flows, delightfully over the following songs and by the third tune, “Nefertiti,” Masin has added half snatched horns creating an almost woozy dream-like state. “If” is Calypso’s enchanting spell. A sadly tragic, gently played piano piece over layers of mounting and falling pads. A mournful, sorrowful fragility of unrequited love and despair, cinematic in its grandeur.

The lovelorn piano is also used elsewhere. On “Mayo Slide” with looped, slightly sickly sweet, vocal samples playing over the soft and gently lead drums of “Khalifa Golf Course” and on “Susan Maybe” with the haunting, half-remembered, whispering voices. On “Amaranta” more organic instruments are introduced, producing an effective simple loop. Masin’s, warm trumpet licks, drift ethereally around the gentle rhythm.

“How To Disappear In A Kiss” mixes the crackling record effect with lush strings, pads and whispering, ghostly vocals, recreating the woozy, hypnotic, dream-like effect of the opening songs. A lovely prequel to the confusion and mild menace of “Cry Winds Of Flame” An altogether darker song, conjuring an eternal, aeon long struggle of loss and sorrow, the feeling of despair in loveless loneliness.

The gentle, fragile beauty returns on “On Demons And Diamonds.” Soft simply picked and played loops and pads with an almost free-jazz sounding horn, floating in a delightfully incorporeal way. The drumbeat returns on the penultimate track, “The Water Sybil” and the album is played out with “Your Name Is My Infinite.” A delicious return to the lovelorn piano theme and the snatched, drifting vocal samples.

“Calypso” is a double album, so there is a lot of music to digest. Over the 16 tracks, Masin’s intelligent, intriguing and imaginative compositions are often spellbinding, delicate and fragile. The album has a near cinematic sound and creates a mysterious soundscape of an ancient, mythical world half-glimpsed through the mists of time.

Gigi Masin has achieved a lot over the last 25 plus years. Longevity and continued creativity in the world of ambient music composing is something to be applauded. If you’ve never heard any of Gigi Masin’s music before, then “Calypso” is an interesting and engaging place to start.

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