Last year at this time, guitarist Josh Mason teamed up with David Andree for the lovely Call, Response; this year’s January collaboration is a pairing with New York trumpeter Gareth Flowers. As might be expected, the tone is totally different this time around. Silent Period is a deep night noir based on a short story from Mason ~ the music makes it three dimensional.
Mason’s unnamed protagonist is walking the streets of Manhattan in the late night/early morning following an unexplained incident. Departing from a city bus in the opening moments, he then wanders through a dark night of the soul. Perhaps he is being pursued, albeit slowly; it is more likely that he is coming to terms with a crime that he himself has perpetrated. The four tracks – “The Awareness”, “The Confusion”, “The Fear” and “The Resignation” – are meant to convey his mindset, but they also reflect the mood of the city after hours: languid, lonely, suffused with light menace.
An intriguing aspect of this release is the fact that clues can be found in four “Evidence” editions randomly inserted in the stock. These black boxes serve as a tease and a treat. One may also glean a clue from the cover, which suggests a suburban location, an area from which the protagonist has fled or to which he hopes to return. Either way, the music sounds unmoored, like a man without a home. Could this be a crime of the heart?
Whenever Flowers plays, the trumpet is front and center. It’s hard to relegate such an instrument to the background, as it tends to cut through any fog. The most direct blasts, in the middle of “The Fear”, speak plainly to the plot. And yet, the fog is the more present part of the release, unfurling in wisps throughout the album. Mason’s guitar, electronics and field recordings are the basket in which the trumpet rests, as if Mason were the city and Flowers the protagonist.
Silent Period is an album of nuance and mood, in which nothing happens quickly. It’s an album of gradual, unsettling realizations rather than sharp revelations, an album of aftermath rather than one of activity. Even when a beat enters in the second piece, it’s a plodding beat, the sound of a man just putting one foot in front of the other, resigned to his destination.
By the closing track, we’ve reached early morning, along with the sounds of sirens, trains, and (this shouldn’t surprise you) rain. What’s a noir without rain? At first, it seems as though the protagonist is thinking about jumping in front of the train, but as the rain ends, he reconsiders. Perhaps he is ready to go home and to face the consequences. At least he has a nice car. But what’s in the trunk? Four lucky people are about to find out. (Richard Allen)
Release date: 19 January