Gigi Masin / Vahine / Language Of Sound 

Gigi Masin’s mini-LP, Vahine, runs a range of emotions, but begins with clipped kalimba. A sad sanza tongue clicking, intertwined in an epic arrangement, with synth, piano, and cool contrabass. Just a jot of jazzy axe. The melody is thoughtful, as if keeping it together, trying not to fall apart. Pain, perhaps, in the fingertips, amid the prettiness. The opening track, Marilene (Somewhere in Texas), taking a Cafe del Mar / sunset soundtrack / ambient techno template and building something truly affecting from those tropes. Making a music that’s accessible to everybody, and heartbreaking to those who know its backstory. 

As a rule, when reviewing a record, I never read the press release, before listening and scribbling down my own notes. Here, however, aware that Gigi had composed the pieces following his wife’s recent passing, I made the mistake of glancing at his quote, which I found incredibly moving, and which coloured all that I wrote: 

“I told myself that maybe it’s so, at the end of the road it’s possible to realize dreams, and I’m sure that she is finally able to dance like never before, and is able to move without any impediment, with no suffering, free to make all the movements that she couldn’t make for so long, turning to me with a smile and a wink.”

Gigi’s words also explain why so little on the album is sombre, introspective, or stationary. Instead travelling from thumping tribal trance, to phased, and fidgeting, futuristic funk. These are scores for your mind, and your body. For those who, like Gigi’s beloved Valerie, now out among the stars, are fleet of foot.

Starting out like Wim Mertens’ Struggle For Pleasure remade on rave’s machines, Barumini mixes ritual reeds with fractal frequencies. Counters Sheffield bleep with Balearic accordion squeezes. A meeting of modern classical and mid-90s progressive house, its cardiac pulse becoming a big room-shaking boom, and its drum crashing finale packing the punch of a celebratory 21-gun salute. The carefully picked and plucked patterns of Valerie Crossing ride a rapid post-punk rumble. The b-line grounding a buzzing and ringing, which rises to cathartic rock-guitar-like riffing. 

There are mellower moments, of course. Shadye could be an outtake from Talk To The Sea, the Music From Memory retrospective, that back in 2014, put Gigi on most people’s musical map. A vapour of treated voices and muted brass, with firework flashes of comet-tail keys. A dubbed-out daydream. A numbing cushion of aural cotton wool for folks too tired, too exhausted, to think or to feel. Malvina is a beatless race of kosmische arpeggios and computerized choral echoes. Its percussion, the sound of someone panting, catching their breath. The bass growling, gradually growing, threatening to consume everything, before it’s checked, dissolves, and fades. 

The title track takes its name from the late night TV that Gigi absorbed, alone, unable to sleep, in the immediate wake of sorrow and grief. In particular a documentary on traditional Tahitian dance. Vahine being Tahitian for “woman”. The program inspired Gigi’s beautiful quote, and the tumbling electronica of the tune certainly couldn’t be described as “chilled” or “ambient”. There’s even some acid in there, tangoing with the twisted timpani, and twisted trumpet fanfare, while the bottom-end – blasts of barely controlled chaos – betrays a darkness. An anger. Not fury, but a quiet, simmering rage. Its beats, the thud of a boxer hitting a heavy bag. 

Gigi Masin’s Vahine is the debut release on new Italian label, Language Of Sound. 

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