Sunday, 3 March 2013

Maston - Shadows

Frank Maston's the man with the studio tan! LA-based baroque-pop classicist releases his debut album.

Studio auteurs, you gotta love 'em! Not least the California based producers who made their mark in the 1960s. They remain a truly fascinating bunch. As the world gets ready to see Al Pacino play Phil Spector in the upcoming TV biopic, and Brian Wilson announces that the recent Beach Boys live outings are unlikely to be repeated, (perhaps indicating that once more he'll retreat into the safe space and sonic possibilities of the studio), the time is right for a new maverick to highlight just what is achievable when sat in the producer's chair.

Enter Frank Maston. His debut album Shadows, on the increasingly excellent Trouble In Mind Records has echoes of the big names mentioned above, along with touches of those other west coast wizards Burt Bacharach, David Axelrod, Arthur Lee and Van Dyke Parks. Though rather than directing a studio full of musicians, Maston plays all the instruments on Shadows, with the exception of the harp on one track. He's effectively a one man Wrecking Crew, Hal Blaine, Glen Campbell and Carol Kaye rolled into one. Seemingly masterful with any instrument, be it brass, woodwind, string, organ or percussion. It's such skill and ability coupled with his taste for inventive melodies that makes this album one of the most arresting so far this year.

Though the album does owe a great deal to the classicist, intellectual studio work of the '60s, in particular the arrangements and instrumentation of Pet Sounds, there are other sounds to be heard. Several instrumentals have a cinematic feel and there are shades of both mariachi and muzak (in a good way), along with an indie sensibility not a million miles away from such bands as Real Estate. The album walks a tightrope between warm comforting jangle and a more edgy, unsettling eeriness.

Maybe it's the air-conditioned retreat from LA's climate that makes the studio such an attractive place out there on the west coast. If that's the case maybe global warming does have some positive side effects. Out of the sun and into the shadows indeed.

Click here for Maston's Bandcamp page.
Click here for the Trouble In Mind website.