A Sense of Place: Josh Mason – Hellified Irie [Fet Press]

joshmasonOn his newest album, Hellified Irie, guitarist and experimental/ambient musician Josh Mason distills memories of family and life along the beaches of Florida into an entrancing mix of field recordings, ambient textures and warm surf guitar sounds. The album is uniquely presented as a digital release accompanied by a 70 page art book of black & white photos and a journal kept while recording.

“Hellified Irie, at it’s core, is a ‘surf’ record both in tone and concept…the style and sound of the recording is an homage to the guitar-centric bands of the mid 60’s such as the Ventures and The Challengers as well as compositional techniques found in Smile-era Beach Boys material, which lends itself nicely to that theme of changing gears. Like a Wallace Stevens poem, it’s a meditative and philosophical sound. A sonic discourse from a deckchair that skates a line between imagination and the reality of every day.” – Josh Mason.

The first minute of the opening track, ‘Century Ambulance’ instantly envelops us in the zeitgeist of the Mason’s remembered world. The sound of waves crashing on the shore cuts to the choppy static and broken voices of a turning radio dial as a segue to the unmistakable reverb-drenched vibrato sound of surf guitar plaintively strummed over the pop and hiss of a hot amplifier. Gradually guitar dissolves more than fades into warm washes of distortion and hazy drones.


The sounds are beautiful enough to simply soak in, but it becomes quite a bit more interesting as Mason’s journal sheds light on the narratives, memories, and ephemera that guided his sonic experimentation – found objects & recordings, old haunts, the “constant hum” of an environment populated with power lines, radio towers, insects, and low flying planes  (‘Florida Light & Power II’, ‘Timecode Beach’) or a pace of life in sync with the rhythms of the wind and waves (‘Wavewalker’).

The ocean is in constant flux around you, and so too, is your mind. Thoughts can wander while you bob and float. One minute you might be focused intently on your positioning, the next you are existing in a handful of other places and times simultaneously without regard for the task at hand. The speed of this modern world often makes that notion feel like an impossibility. There didn’t used to be this necessity to always ‘know’. No urgency. No emergency. Once in a while you’d run into someone by chance. You’d stumble upon treasure.- Josh Mason

On the beautiful centerpiece ‘Continued on Chart 11484’, we are sitting outside with Mason calmly enjoying the sound of creaking porch chairs and chimes played by the rush of a soft breeze as he unhurriedly plucks and strums the nylon strings of an acoustic guitar. Gradually we drift into a long, hazy reverie in which the buzz, chirp, and hiss of both the natural and man-made environment hover over delicate, meandering guitar lines.

As the quiet meditations of ‘Warp Thing’ and ‘Joy Will Not Protect You’ come to an end, the feeling of reluctance to return to rushed pace of the hyper connected world is palpable. Mason succeeds in capturing that blissful torpor of endless summers, magical places, and openness to discoveries inwards & outwards on this lovely and evocative recording. To borrow an expression from Mason – “embrace the drift”.

Order (art book & digital download)http://www.fet-press.com/

Listen to an album sampler:

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