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Masselys – High Fantasy Low Fantasy

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Masselys - High Fantasy/Low FantasyMasselys are a Norwegian supergroup of sorts with members coming from Salvatore, 120 Days and whalesharkattacks. This supreme meeting of minds has resulted in the most affecting romp through the last forty years of leftfield western music, its eclecticism only matched by the wealth of ideas.

I am not familiar with the parent bands, but clearly the fusion of styles they have to draw form has prompted them to divide the album into two distinct sides; one using rock as a jumping off point and the other dance. I use jumping off point because rather like leaping from a cliff, there is no guarantee what you will find once you land let alone on the way down.

I like that description of post-rock as being rock instruments being used for non-rock purposes and it fits Masselys well. The line-up of guitars, bass, drums and synths produces out of the ordinary results. Opener “Songs For The Future” sets the scene, leaking into the aether in a spaced-out, hesitant manner, effects swirling in and out, space echo ululating until a motorik beat kicks in and the song is off, spinning into a dystopian dreamworld, post-punk guitar shards swooping and crying as Viviana Vega‘s vocals meander through the mix, deep and slightly sinister.

The odd time signature of “Let Snake Be Snake” causes the song to lumber unevenly, the disturbing vibe is swampy and overheated as Viviana warns us what happens if you play with serpents. As the music starts to overheat, it seems to disappear down some steamy jungle track and the guitar assumes a life of its own, curling around your head like so many vines. At this point, I have to say that Viviana’s voice is fantastic. When she sings in Spanish over the gentle rhythm and cascading keys and birdsong on “Barrancos”, you are seduced. The timbre is rich and the tone warm, but infused with danger, and coming from a hip-hop background she is not tied to verse-chorus-verse. Wherever the songs lead, she allows the lyrics to flow like a stream.

The emotional and musical rollercoaster of side one gives way to something a little more basic but equally compelling on side two. It opens with the eight-minute, 126bpm panoramic sweep of “Marble Madness”. Boiled down to a simple hi-hat beat, hypnotic synth and euphoric piano, it allows Viviana’s vocals to act as a calming influence on the mania of the jittery synth lines. It is addictive and the perfect dance track, but also eminently satisfying to listen to. As the tune nears its conclusion, extra ingredients are added for our pleasure; a little guitar here, a further phased synth effect there. The cleanliness and joy of this track are consumed bsly the wallowing, filthy grunge of “Soburb”. Moving at a slower speed, its main synth sound appears to be from the broken voicebox of a Dalek and although still danceable, seems to inhabit a different world.

I have spun this record loads of times, trying to find an angle to explain it; and every time, I thrill to finding some new touch, little snippets of sound, a divergent synth line, a squall of guitar and writhing in amongst the stew, Viviana’s voice, sinuous and tempting, drawing you in like a siren. This is such a diverse and satisfying listen, like two whole careers squeezed into one album. Buy it now and allow it to change your world.

-Mr Olivetti-

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