Photo by Andrew Mason courtesy of Force Field PR
Jenny Gillespie Mason has tried on many different sounds to varying degrees of success in her recordings under the name Sis, but it’s wonderful to hear it all click into place in a whole new way on her third major release, Gnani. Unlike her previous long players—2018’s Euphorbia and 2019’s Gas Station Roses—her new EP is not concerned with brittle trip-hop beats (in the case of the former) or pop song structures and electronic grooves (in the case of the latter). Gnani is all about mood, atmosphere, ambiance, and on that front, it excels.
Taking her cues from jazz pianist Alice Coltrane and Four Tet’s patented blend of sample-driven electronica mixed with organic live instruments, Mason and her collaborators (bassist Doug Stuart and percussionist Brijean Murphy, a duo who record together for Mason’s Native Cat Recordings label under the name Brijean) have crafted six songs that are ambient and spacy yet warm and inviting. The mood is set from the first notes of “Double Rapture,” which opens the mini-album with a slow, steady two-note keyboard figure that pulses like a heartbeat as Mason’s dreamlike vocals float above on a breeze of light reverb. Single “Wooie” picks up the pace but only slightly, with a skittering beat that gradually morphs from drum machines to hand percussion and a variety of sampled keyboard snippets that come and go and layer to compelling effect. The languorous “Flower in Space” is the mini-album’s centerpiece, a six-minute tune that’s built around a simple, sparse piano sample, a beat that clatters away off in the distance, and emotionally muted vocals about “the end of suffering.” “Embodiment” starts off with icy synths and a chattering beat but thaws with the arrival of the warm sounds of piano. And the warm vibes continue with the instrumental closer “Gazelle Rites,” which wraps up the EP with layers of space jazz keyboard and hand percussion.
The songs have so many moving parts, bits that are sometimes used to shift from mood to mood and sometimes piled on top of each other (check out the crescendo that crashes two-thirds of the way through “Light Is There”), yet somehow they never come off as overly busy or fussed over. It all just swirls pleasantly together, beautiful late-night-vibes music that bears even more fruit under closer inspection. | Jason Green