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Mason Jones - The Crystalline World of Memory
CD-R (San Francisco, CA)



-snow in the morning
-a distant light
-the last remembered moment
-what if...
-...it's all final
-the crystal view
-that which we leave behind
-so it is
-the difficult life of the interstellar loner




Recorded in June/July 2002
Cover photo by R. Samuel Klatchko

Reviews:
(Indieville 11/4/2002) Mason Jones is no stranger to accessibility. Having played in improvisational space rock band Subarachnoid Space, he certainly knows how to keep his audience engaged, showing off melody and rhythm in the face of dull experimentation. So it is no surprise that The Crystalline World of Melody, his latest effort, is a completely engaging listen. From the very first track, "Snow in the Morning," Mason's off to a good start - he begins with some chiming guitar notes and then manipulates them into the form of a guitar solo, maintaining a sense of tone and rhythm throughout. The way in which he presents it, laid on top of a dense, reverb-enhanced ambiance, is a direct throwback to Jones' space rock roots. "The Last Remembered Moment," meanwhile, is a creepy little space folk-esque number that recalls some of Mogwai's more restrained bits, and is composed of Mason's guitar soloing played over a mysterious, layered guitar noise background. And "The Crystal View" sees him going for a little bit of a rock-based approach, introducing semi-traditional axe-solo elements and mock-riffs to the mix. "That Which We Leave Behind" continues in this vein, turning up the distortion and presenting a solo that would fit straight into a heavy metal band's repertoire without question (well, sort of). Over the duration of Memory, Mason manages to remain reasonably restrained, holding himself back from any fast-paced guitar freak-outs. While sometimes he does turn on the effects and go for a stronger sound, there is always a sense of "holding back" present. However, his mastery of improvisation still allows him to mess with your mind, and the result is ten pieces that are low in noise, but high in suspense and tension. - Matt Shimmer

(Ampersand Etcetera 2002_17) Mason Jones, from Subarachnoid Space whose albums I have reviewed in the past, pops up with an album of 'solo guitar recorded direct to DAT, edited, reconstructed and mastered in June/July'. He pulls out all stops for 'Snow in the morning' with picked loops, drones, fast runs behind, a bit of slide squeal out of which a broody electric solo sort of emerges, there is some feedback and then a clearer solo, with ringing – a smooth blending of a range of possibilities, combining the solo skills with the engineer's reworking to fine effect. Another possibility is demonstrated through 'A distant light' which has whistly noises and is very chopped and reconstituted with a rhythmic guitar solidity – a more straightforward solo develops and is then back to a more constructed chop, messed around. It ends with a twangy slipping into spirals of sound that continue into 'The last remembered moment' where a simple picking is played over a scrapey loop. A second solo drops in, becoming more active and stormy and finally bassy chops. Big feedback and then an exciting fast, almost Spanish, solo over high swirling and squeals in 'What if…' segues into '…it's all final' where a solid solo runs over fading elements of its predecessor. Continuing the directness, 'The crystal view' is a simple, slow solo – forceful with some echo-effects – over which squiggly highlights slide. The big electric guitar featured in 'That which we leave behind' is answered by an easy going response from 'So it is'. And finally, a reconstructed experimental approach in 'The difficult life of the interstellar loner' with a spacey combination of guitar parts providing a decentred conclusion. A simple guitar album that goes well beyond being simply guitar or simple. Very enjoyable. - Jeremy Keens

(Touching Extremes) I'm always glad when I find a fellow guitarist to lay my attention on. Mason Jones is such a case, with this nice lo-fi excursion through the meanders of a contorted yet thrilling sonic world, in which effect treatment and string resonance at its craziest top are the basis for a series of almost spatial snapshots; from extremely experimental touches to lulling seas of nightly guitarscapes, Jones knows his instrument and its operating possibilities well, constructing an intriguing sound world...better through speakers than headphones. - Massimo Ricci

(Komakino 11/4/2002) Mason Jones presses rec button on his DAT tape recorder, holds his guitar and comes out with 9 electric ambient escapes. And Public Eyesore cannot do but getting him under their skin, releasing The Crystalline World of Memory, in their own classic format, digipack with front/back picture. Since first listening, it feels like it's a loneliness feeling touching/covering all tracks, - an instrumental guitar solo, made of feedback, notes lost into echoes/loops, distortion, several guitar efx, - bottle necks sliding, improvvisation, free speech about melancholy, alienation (all themes common between PE's Artists.). Give a listen to Snow in the morning. - Paolo Miceli

(Eld Rich Palmer no. 12) Releasing under his own name (a nickname, sorry) by the leader of Trance (postindustrial) and Subarachnoid Space (guitar improv) seems the least known facet of his artistic activities. Mason Jones plays the guitar and records it directly onto DAT. He did so on 1998's 'International Incident' and last year's 'The Crystalline World of Memory' follows that method, but don't know about other releases. A possibility of overlaying multiple tracks while recording them gave him a lot of freedom to explore sound and techniques of playing the instrument. Fortunately, Mason doesn't improvise, or at least it can't be noticed. Instead, there are lots of well-prepared and well-executed ideas. The album enraptures you with its very beginning – an excellent rendering of the falling snow in 'Snow in the Morning' achieved by means of delicate stroking the strings, which reminds striking the piano keys. In 'What If...' slides of glass (?) over the guitar's neck imitate synths. Such surprising projections of atmospheres and situations are quite many here; the mood of a given track is determined by its title, for example ‘The Last Remembered Moment’, ‘That Which We Leave Behind’, ‘The Difficult Life of the Interstellar Loner’. Nostalgia, daydreaming and calmness prevail. Mason Jones proved how versatile the guitar can be: it can be used to create background, to introduce rhythm, to strike sparks of distortions and to generate sound particles to colour the whole, steering clear of rock riff traps. All of that, mixed into compositions makes a multi-layered music with a broad range of sound. Although 'The Crystalline World of Memory' didn't undergo the post-production process, and the guitar is the only instrument here, we need to add that Mason Jones propped himself up in a creative way with guitar f/x; especially 'That Which We Leave Behind', reminding of Neil Young's soundtrack to the 'Dead Man' movie, owes them a lot. After the above mentioned album on Charnel Music, which I didn't entirely dig, I find the first outing on Public Eyesore very good! - Krzysztof Sadza

(Aural Innovations no. 23) On The Crystalline World Of Memory, SubArachnoid Space guitarist Mason Jones lays down nine tracks of solo guitar recorded direct to DAT in 2002. The only other solo disc from Jones I've heard is 1998's International Incident, which featured Jones exploring his interest in much harsher noise realms. This current release, though equally exploratory, is a much trippier psychedelic voyage by way of ambience, atmosphere, sound sculpture, and even melody, though rock elements crop up as well. The tracks have titles but I found myself largely indifferent to them as each mostly melted into the next, making for a continuous 45 minute journey into trip guitar bliss. Throughout the set we are treated to rumbling ambient drone waves and bubbling psychedelic dances. The music travels in a decidedly linear direction, creating dense walls of sound and sometimes with a clear sense of rhythm and perhaps even song. It's dark... urgent... but highly trippy. There are also some seriously lysergic moments of dripping liquid psychedelia against background drones and tripped out space waves. A couple tracks did stand out on their own. On "The Crystal View" Jones lets it rip, going off into a rock jam. "That Which We Leave Behind" is a continuation of this theme that gets more sonically devastating, like the moment in a 70's rock concert when the guitarist stood alone on stage and just jammed away. No breathtaking solos here... just loud and heavy guitar-scapes played in an acidic Hendrix-like style. And the aptly titled closing track, "The Difficult Life Of The Interstellar Loner", is mucho cosmic but a little different from the rest as it's more on the experimental side. Jones' guitar is like a spacecraft drifting leisurely and treating us to all the little bangs, whooshes and clatters that you might hear in cold, dark space. An interesting blend of soundscape experimentation and head massage. In summary, this is a tasty set for guitar lovers that will provide lots of psychedelic ear candy for a headphones experience as well as providing countless rewards for the attentive listener. - Jerry Kranitz

(Chain D.L.K. 12/29/2003) A solo release for Mason Jones, member of Subarachnoid Space and Culper Ring, based on live guitar solos later edited and reconstructed. Strangely enough, it could be one of the "least weird" releases in the crazy Public Eyesore catalogue. Jones seems to draw his influences from '70's psychedelia with some roots in blues and rock as well - so these live improvisations are somehow "recognizable" even in their more spacey and abstract moments. At times ("...It’s all final?") it's like listening to a freak version of Ry Cooder, at others ("What if...", "The difficult life of the interstellar loner"), as the opposite end of the spectrum, the sound matter gets more obscure and paranoid, with noisy passages and psych delays. Still, a kind of "retro" aftertaste creeps in. - Eugenio Maggi

(Aiding & Abetting no. 236) Solo guitar musings that arrive as offerings from another universe. Mason Jones makes no attempt to distill his spacey improvisational sound into anything more accessible. These songs travel across the galaxy and beyond. A great trip for those ready to take the plunge. - Jon Worley

(Vital Weekly no. 337) Mason Jones is of course the big man behind Charnel House, the label, Subarachnoid Space, the space rock band, earlier of Trance, his solo guitar band and god knows what else I don't know. A busy guy so to say. On this CDR he offers us nine improvisations for solo guitar, recorded direct to DAT. Mason has of course a whole bunch of those nice little effect boxes to feed his guitar sound through, before it reaches the heads of the recording machines. It means that at times, you don't recognize them as just a solo guitar, but at times it seems a whole bunch of guitars. In these improvisations, things work best when Mason plays a simple tune, which is then put in repetition mood by using delay, chorus and what have you. Here one is reminded of his guitar work for Subarachnoid Space, but then with the guitar lifted from the band sound and the music sounds like sketches for new band pieces, such as in 'Snow In The Morning' and 'The Last Remembered Moment'. The music don't work very well, when he plays prepared guitar, such as in 'The Difficult Life of The Interstellar Loner', in which places objects on the strings and adds delay to the sound. That piece doesn't seem to go anywhere. Overall, however, the other pieces prevail and thus a nice release. - Frans de Waard

(All Music Guide) As a guitarist, Mason Jones sounds like he has integrated the teachings of Robert Fripp and Loren Mazzacane Connors. His music has the menacing heaviness of the former, the bluesy phrasing of the latter, and the fondness for soundscape they share. But it seems there could be more to The Crystalline World of Memory than what meets the ear. Public Eyesore¹s CD-R releases come with only the indispensable information, but one line raises a question: edited, reconstructed and mastered. Reconstructed? How much of these solos are not solos at all? Most of the time Jones appears to be alone (and single) with his guitar and looping devices. Anything else is for the edit spotter (and they are not difficult to spot). The album¹s opener is also its best track: Snow in the Morning begins with what any unsuspecting listener would identify as a few piano notes. Their true nature becomes obvious only when the underlying soundscape lifts up. Mason keeps things between melancholy melody and soft modal soloing. Only in the closer The Difficult Life of the Interstellar Loner does the music become overtly experimental, thanks to an array of spacy effects. - François Couture

(Splendid Ezine 2/27/2003) Since the 1960s, people have used the amplified guitar to create all manner of sound effects. From Hendrix's wah-wah to Frippertronics to Adrian Belew's guitar-as-orchestra projects, many solo guitarists have capably wielded mighty sounds and engaged in timbral discovery. However, there's still plenty of ore to mined from the overdubbed solo guitar album concept, as The Crystalline World of Memory amply demonstrates. Jones's playing draws upon all of the artists mentioned above and a handful of other worthies. Portions of "A Distant Light" are highly reminiscent of Steve Hackett's experimental playing on The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, whereas the trippy echoing of closer "The Difficult Life of an Interstellar Loner" seems like a kindred spirit to some of the Acid Mothers Temple's offerings. Ultimately, Jones's balance of the various elements of density, from single-note solos to walls of sound, and his own particular blending of pitch versus noise, give The Crystalline World of Memory its personal stamp. - Christian Carey

(Aquarius Records) Local experimental guitarist Mason Jones -- you know him from his popular space rock band Subaranoid Space, and perhaps also from his isolationist guitar explorations under the name Trance (a moniker it seems he's dispensed with here), or his Japan-o-centric music 'zine Ongaku Otaku, or his former label Charnel Music, or his other dabblings in the world of Japanese noise, etc. -- presents this cd-r of guitar music. Really beautiful, spaced-out guitar music. These nine tracks incorporate both lovely, melodic note-picking and echo-effected ambience. We know Mason's got a ton of effects pedals and isn't afraid to use 'em, but the underwater drones and neighing-horse symphonies he creates don't stop him from actually utilizing his guitar in a more conventional sense here as well. Mason's pleasant, kinda sixties-sci-fi-sounding playing on this solo project (live to DAT, with subsequent edits) falls in zone somewhere betwixt the pretty post-rock dynamics of, say, Sonna, and the physicality and psychedelia of a Kawabata Makoto... good stuff Mason!

(AmbiEntrance 03/2003) Mixing plinky highs with murky lows, meandering jangle/drone Snow in the Morning opens this 44-minute disc of eclectic solo guitar constructions with occasionally-rough energies... the soft pluckings of the Last Remembered Moment resonate over an (initially) faint churning glare of alien contortions. The boiling thrum and twinkle of What if...'s contorted mists are followed-up by ... It's All Final's elastic electric noodling. Fuzzy with feedback, That Which We Leave Behind glares within a melodically rocking haze. Quieter notes drift within less turbulence as So It Is (1:16) precedes finale The Difficult Life of the Interstellar Loner (8:46) wherein experimentally-stroked stringsounds create trippy (often rather sci-fi-esque) environments of contemplative weirdness. These guitar-spawned scenes are sometimes noisy but never overbearing. Nicely done esoterica by Mason Jones. - David J. Opdyke

(Dead Angel no. 55) TMU: Hmmmm, this is a different masterplan than the one i had imagined... this opening song is called, uhhh, "Snow in the Morning." That's some heavy fuckin' snow. TTBMD: Yes, it sounds like something is on the horizon. TMU: You know, Mason is from fucking California, how does he know about snow? It is very mysterious.... TTBMD: Building... building.... TMU: Are these wailing dealies keyboards or really high-pitched guitars or... what the fuck is he doing toward the end? Does Mason play with guitars with whammy bars or is that just what happens when you step on it a couple of times? TTBMD: It sounds like he's underwater, flowing within the tide. This is earth music. TMU: Doin' the drone... he's got that Echoplex business happenin' on "A Distant Light," too. Plus some hypnotic psychonaut riff grinding away in the background and wonked out efx leaping to and fro. The sounds of the Mothership! Can you get me back to that? (begins to funk helplessly) TTBMD: Lost. Looking for something. It's hard to get around without... gravity. (drifts with the drone) This is music for animals and those who are drifting far, far away. TMU: I like the way a lot of the time it sounds more like amped-up field recordings near a power station rather than actual instruments. But then there's these wonked-out frittering efx noises and stuff... zoned, brutah.... TTBMD: I like this very much. It's some of the best stuff I've heard from Mason -- very relaxing.... I just can't help but think of nature. TMU: I like the insects chirping in the background. And the piano that may or may not actually be a piano. TTBMD: There's no pianos in here, dude -- that's a guitar. TMU: Truly my ghetto-blaster sucks. First Sound Exchange is closing, then the Mercury, and now my boombox blows. Okay, so it's a guitar. I like. Very melodious and soothing.... TTBMD: It's like more elaborate Subarachnoid Space, but with no drums and shit -- just pure straight-up sound collage. This is the kind of shit that people would listen to if they only had patience and brains. TMU: This riff on "... It's All Final?" sounds sort of Black Sabbath on a real exotic strain of windowpane acid. Dig that groovy earth tone, woman-child! Get your cosmic slo-mo funk motion on! TTBMD: Anyway.... are we listening to the same record? TMU: I think we're hearing different things. TTBMD: But it's good, right? TMU: Of course it's brilliant -- it's the music of the Mothership.... TTBMD: So what's up with this dude from Public Eyesore? He puts out plenty of good shit, and by the law of averages there should be some bad shit in there, but so far it's all good except -- TMU: There was the one by, aaaah, what was it... Electric Kitty Poop or something like that.... TTBMD: Was he drunk when he put that out? TMU: Do i look like his goddamn fucking bartender? How the fuck would i know? He's in... in... somewhere up in the Midwest... that's like, near Canada, right? Or North Dakota? I was in North Dakota once. They have really big trees. TTBMD: I hear Montreal's pretty cool.... TMU: Niagra Falls is good. You can throw shit over the rail and watch it disappear in a raging inferno of water. Wow, this guitar is really fucking loud now... that's a very devolved riff he's playing. Like some weird eastern melody... nay, Lovecraftian melody even... amid guitars that sound like dying saxophones. The ghost of Coltrane with an Echoplex as Gong brings on the ELECTRIC FUNK! TTBMD: That was "That Which We Leave Behind." TMU: And now we indeed have left it behind, for we're now listening to "The Difficult Life of the Interstellar Loner." TTBMD: Wow, I'm really starting to zone out, man.... This is blues music, it's about tones, it's about where you're trying to find out where you're going, man... not just music. TMU: I like that there are moments where it's really spare and minimal. He's getting some perversely tweaked sounds out of his hunks o' wood 'n wire. I greatly approve of this. This is totally the shit. He's got that funked-up interstellar Mothership Groove goin' on... like listening to the power coils emitting cold showers of sparks in the engine room of the Mothership on the way to visit the Thumpasaurus People of Plutonia. TTBMD: We are in space now... the comets are not moving very fast, but... uh... very slow. TMU: Beverage cart service coming up.... i sense that we are in the presence of extremely free jazz now, o my brother. Jazz without beats, without borders, with lots of reverb.... TTBMD: The spaceship is landing. The no-smoking and seatbeat lights are off now. TMU: YES! The time for FUNK has ARRIVED! (begins to frug wildly until chair turns over) TTBMD: Oh shit... you're funkin' crazy. TMU: It's a good thing i have these soothing guitar sounds to distract me from my snapped and bleeding tibia.... - RKF


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