(All Album Reviews by ffroyd)
A very interesting package arrived on my desk a few days ago. It contained works from a contemporary British duo called Mask. There was lot of beautiful promotional material that came with it, even a booklet that looks a lot like a tour program. The centerpiece of the parcel was the Heavy Petal album, a beautifully packaged DualDisc containing a complete CD album on one side and a DVD on the other.
Mask consists of cellist Marvin Ayres and vocalist Sonja Kristina…yes, that Sonja Kristina! It’s been years since we’ve last heard from the former Curved Air singer and her fans will be happy to know that her vocal chords are still in fine shape. This is quite different than the music of Curved Air, though. The approach here could be described as lush ambient. These are beautiful dreamy soundscapes with a hint of world music influence. Kristina plays some guitar here and there and Ayres adds piano and a few samples. They both are credited with something called “overtoning” which I believe is a type of singing that makes the sound fuller.
The Heavy Petal CD is a decent listen but nothing really earth shattering. They haven’t exactly reinvented the wheel but they do ride this vehicle to some exotic locales. Some of it sounds like the more dreamy stuff from Kate Bush mixed by Cocteau Twins or something like that. The cello and violin parts are excellent. I also received a couple of Martin Ayres solo discs which I think I might end up liking even more than this. My favorite parts on this album are when they paint a little outside of the lines like on tracks like “Sliding Universe/Lambent Spire” which has a very slow Arabic feel and “Those Ghosts” a wonderfully eerie piece.
Flipping the disc over gets you to the DVD portion. There isn’t really a whole lot there, only three of the pieces from the CD are presented in video form and not much happens in the videos. They did include a video for “Lambent Spire” which has some really nice footage of the inside of a cathedral and some goldfish. These videos are like the visual equivalent of the soundscapes. The pictures change slowly and the effect can be quite stunning. I really like the last one for the piece “ Healing Senses” which contains some unusual kaleidoscope camera tricks.
The album has sort of a nebulous concept to it that is incorporated into the colorful graphic artwork. The saga of “Jack and Virginia” isn’t exactly essential to the enjoyment of the album and I wasn’t even aware of it until I read the booklet that was sent with it. There are texts incorporated into the artwork that are from a journal that Sonja and Marvin kept during the recording of the album.
Overall, I found the album to be quite nice but a little lacking in spots. For those fans looking for something sounding like the old Curved Air stuff, this isn’t going to be anything like that. There is some very soft and soothing music here and it should be perfect for things like relaxation and meditation.