Review: JD Mason – Opalescent

JD Mason - OpalescentAs the instruments whirl around him, Mason stays strong. He points inward, eyes and hands transfixed upon the neck and fretboard of his guitar, asserting personal stability amidst a soundscape that rocks like the hull of a ship in turbulent, stormy movement. Harmoniums, keyboards and extra guitars tumble dissonantly around the edges of the frame – crates of sound dislodged and sent sliding across the walls, ungainly and unpredictable – as the melodies at the centre unfold into flowers of meticulous fingerplucked detail, loose but harmonically coherent. Mason is acutely aware of the chaos that rocks the perimeter, conquering the distraction through the meditative flow of his playing style.

The record was recorded in a church in Norwich. Before I listened to Opalescent, my head naively filled with expectations of rich circulating reverbs and instruments dwindled in emptiness. In actual fact, the atmosphere of Opalescent is dank and often cramped; the echo is that of moist stone and basement chill, as though the music has been stowed away from societal contact (either in deliberate hiding, or as the recipient of hostile misunderstanding and subsequent neglect). The extra instruments twitch restlessly, less concerned about establishing harmonic unity as driven by the urge to kinetically exist; harmoniums whine to keep folds and keys limber, while guitars moan just to hear their own sonic reflection. Tucked away from the outside world, Mason’s central melodies create feedback loops of self-intimacy, clinging to the shape of particular melodic refrains and placing them under persistent repeat and gentle modulation, imbuing his style with a strand of instrumental folk that, in spite of the agoraphobic secrecy of Opalescent’s atmosphere, cradles a residual connection to a cultural heritage and loving community based somewhere in the world outside.