Letna: Horizont
Sunshine Ltd.

Josh Mason: Dark Thread & Other Colors

In Dark Thread & Other Colors, Florida-based Josh Mason is assisted by a small number of other musicians in the creation of a seven-track suite of harmonious guitar-based settings. As listed, Jared Smith, Cody Yantis, Jason Choi, Sarah Hubbard, Ryan Adams, Charles Abadam and (posthumously) John F. Jordan contribute to the thirty-three-minute release, even if the precise nature of their contributions isn't clarified.

Though only a minute in length, the introductory “A Curious Hum That Cannot be Located” serves notice that Mason isn't averse to pushing the guitar's possibilities beyond conventional boundaries. Expanding on the instrument's sound through the application of computers, old tape machines, and effects, Mason generates rich electroacoustic soundscapes where guitars merge with strings, nature-based field recordings, noise textures, and willowy synth tones. “Captive Son” presents five minutes of soothing, micro-textural soundscaping of the kind one might hear on a label release from Hibernate or Home Normal, while the inclusion of acoustic guitar strums nudges “Amulet” into a pastoral ambient-folk zone. Elsewhere, the woodsy tone of a clarinet in “Tome” reinforces the already outdoorsy character of Mason's material, and hazy swirls of electric guitar washes in “Journeyman” drift amidst thick blankets of hiss, crackle, and smears in classic ambient-drone manner.

It's fitting that the titles of the eight tracks on Letna's Horizont (issued on cassette in an edition of fifty on Josh Mason's Sunshine Ltd. label) refer to peaks in Sasa Vojvodic's native Serbia as the material doesn't just transport the listener to the titular locales but places him/her at the seeming center of the site in question. Yes, musical elements are present—Vojvodic's electric guitar playing primarily—but as prominently featured are the atmospheres associated with the settings. Smothered in hiss, a given piece envelops his delicate guitar picking and processed textures with the sounds of nature—the soft hum of insects, rustle of leaves, flow of a nearby stream, the chatter of hikers. Stylistically, Horizont is pastoral ambient of a powerfully evocative kind: the gentle breeze that drifts across its eight uninterrupted parts creates the impression of large, open fields at high altitudes and even larger, cloud-filled skies stretching out above. In this case, field recording details function as something considerably more than mere decoration: in “Hum,” for example, the thunderstorm is so central an element one almost feels compelled to seek shelter.

Truth be told, Horizont is so unqualifiedly a pastoral ambient recording, it makes it hard for one to imagine that Vojvodic began his music career in the ‘90s as part of the French underground hip-hop scene, even if the SEM label co-founder's interests broadened thereafter into multiple other areas before his discovery of the sampler brought him to field recordings-influenced ambient production.

December 2013