Italian musician Gigi Masin is one of the unsung pioneers of the Balearic chillout sound, releasing his first album nearly a decade before Ibiza DJ Jose Padilla kicked off his six genre-defining Cafe Del Mar compilations in 1994. Masin's music is blessed with a curious quality that makes it very special, something a reviewer once evocatively described as 'Venetian grace'.
country of origin:
Balearic, ambient jazz, ambient rock/pop, cinematic, pastoral, spacemusic
80's - 10's
- Wind (1986, Music From Memory)
- The Wind Collector (1991, Bear On The Moon Records)
- Talk To The Sea (2014, Music From Memory)
with Gaussian Curve:
- Clouds (2015, Music From Memory)
- The Distance (2017, Music From Memory)
Reviewed by Mike G
Italian musician Gigi Masin is one of the unsung pioneers of the Balearic chillout sound, releasing his first album nearly a decade before Ibiza DJ Jose Padilla kicked off his six genre-defining Cafe Del Mar compilations in 1994.
Now, if the idea of cafe music makes you wince, know that Masin's sound never lapses into the bland, undistinguished soup of floaty synths, cheesy melodies and by-the-numbers drum breaks that Del Mar and many of its ilk eventually succumbed to. It's blessed with a curious quality that makes his music very special, something a reviewer once evocatively described as 'Venetian grace'. Spareness, poise and restraint are his eternal companions.
His debut album Wind (1986), a jazzy Balearic wonder. It was heard by almost nobody in 1986, only expanding beyond its tiny cult following in 2015 when it was remastered and reissued to wide acclaim. Although Masin has forged a decent-sized discography since its release, his obscure and mostly-instrumental debut remains the one that seems to inspire the most fervour. It certainly is a template of sorts for his distinctive sounds, a striking personal statement that explores the spaces between jazz, ambient, pop and minimalism. I love Masin's spare analogue synth sound, a sonic signature that has resurfaced fairly regularly in his subsequent work. It’s either softly pulsing like a slowly purring motor, or shaped into beautiful airy chords that hover like clouds. Languid trumpet, tenor sax and piano improvisations are woven around these structures with great sensitivity. Some of the melodies are weepingly lovely - “Tears Of A Clown” and “Wind Song” - while a number of other cuts are synth-only tone poems which flirt with abstraction and dissonance but are never cold. Masin occasionally sings, too, his voice clear and light and soothing, a perfect fit for the fragility that surrounds it.
Aside from his fine career-spanning compilation Talk To The Sea (2014) - the album which helped spark Masin's latter-day renaissance - the other really outstanding album released under his own name is The Wind Collector (1991), another early release that has since enjoyed a much-deserved reissue. While this one is credited as a collaboration with two other Italians, Alessandro Monti and Alessandro Pizzin, it's very much the spiritual cousin of Wind. It's full of luminous and gently euphoric tonalities - especially on piano - intermingled with an occasional song or passages of abstract space music. The deeply gorgeous "She Wears Shades" detours into something a bit more exotic, meshing two independent melody lines played on a zither and a piano. The Wind Collector is cast along the same minimal, space-creating lines as Wind and bathed in that mystical Balearic glow that Masin does so well, music for sunsets that's beautiful and warm, sad and profound.
Perhaps inspired by the success of Talk To The Sea and his music's rediscovery by a new generation of fans, Masin (on piano) formed the band Gaussian Curve in 2014 with two young musicians, Jonny Nash (guitar, melodica, synths, trumpet) and Marco Sterk (percussion, synths).
The band's first album Clouds (2015) is in many ways textbook Gigi Masin and stands as one of his very finest creations. It also shows how well his earlier music has aged; the album's sound design is similar to recordings he made over 20 years previous, a testament to an ambient artist who's always been driven by ideas and musicianship rather than technology. The superb second album The Distance (2017) expands somewhat beyond the spare jazzy motifs and purring synths he’s known for, perhaps due to the other two members having settled in their roles and made their presence felt more strongly. But the Venetian grace that makes Masin’s art so special remains ever-present.