For devoted readers of Divide and Conquer, France’s Daniel Masson should be no stranger: he’s had several albums reviewed on this site over the past decade, and most (if not all) were rated Top Album. He’s also been interviewed a few times. But for the newcomers, Masson describes himself as “a composer, guitarist and independent producer following his own style in electronic music.” His career has encompassed a variety of musical genres including rock, jazz, world and electronic music, “weaving diverse music genres from different cultures together in a unique way.” His newest release is called Dead End, “a collection of seven music reflections inspired by the hyper consumerism of our globalized world.”
Masson’s style has its early roots in ‘70s rock and jazz guitar, creating video game soundtracks and scoring for films, as well as contributing to deep house compilations and performing upbeat dance soundscapes worldwide. Though Masson began by using tape recorders with computers, he graduated to Logic and now uses Ableton Live: “it’s the best and most innovative music creation software (and is) the perfect tool for me.” Masson is able to access tons of sounds from huge sound libraries and create virtual instruments, blending sounds easily and quickly. On this release he credits himself with guitars, bass guitar and programming.
“To Know - Edit” begins with a somewhat simple structure: modulating between two chords with glass-like percussion, joined by jazzy electric guitar figures. The words “To know” and “good to know” are sampled and repeated at whim. Keyboards start to jam along, joined by small horn samples. This piece has an easygoing vibe and would totally feel at home on a smooth jazz cable station. This track runs just over four minutes, as most of them do, creating a nice consistency for the whole album. “Bim Bam” is a similar construct with more of a jaunty beat, presented with French lyrics and an English translation. Again, guitar and keyboards interweave to create a mellow, upbeat lattice for Masson’s spacey jamming, with some very retro synth sounds percolating across the stereo field.
“All That for This” starts with a Beatles-like descending guitar chord scheme, which then becomes more of a funky, insistent groove. Lots of shimmering synths pepper the soundscape. Previous reviews of Masson’s albums have called them “chill music, perfect for a loft party” and that’s where this track takes me: imagining couples draped in each other’s arms, maybe a little buzzed, swaying hypnotically to the music.
“Chameleon Time - Red Alert Mix” is centered on a simple, jazzy guitar figure with synths that vaguely suggest the sounds one might encounter in a “red alert” situation. The beat is almost paramilitary but works nicely for the piece, building slowly with a variety of surfaces and textures. There’s even what I assume is a sampled bicycle bell, stretched out with digital reverb. For me this is one of the cooler tracks.
“Le blue de la mer - Time Before Version” couldn’t help but put me in mind of Charles Trenet’s classic song “La Mer” though they are quite different. The whole of the lyrics: “the blue of the sea / offers its mystery / the green of the palm trees / put thoughts to sleep.” Even without the mention of palm trees, this track has a futuristic tropical vibe, with island-sounding percussion, suggestions of seagulls, and an overall feel of a sandy beach vacation. The guitars play a three-chord sequence and dovetail beautifully with each other. “Mirage of Srens” features a very clipped electronic beat with “shaker” ornamentation. The guitar plays laid-back riffs as the synths build a warm cocoon of sound around it. I especially love the extremely short moments of what sounds like sampled female voices.
“Valse du Diable - Sensitive Version” closes the album with a fun “ba-dup!” chant at the start, which introduces another simple lyrical conceit: “To the rhythm of the wind / To the rhythm of the waves / The Devil's Waltz.” Masson basically whispers these lines in French a few times over yet another chugging, airy soundscape that can get you moving or floating away.
Though Masson has been around seemingly forever, this was my first exposure to his music and I loved what I heard. I’ve no doubt there’s lots more to come!
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