Posted on June 24th, 2011 (10:00 am) by Bradley Hartsell

Ladies and gentlemen, The Mast! The Brooklyn duo’s debut Wild Poppies is fascinating with a rich personality. Haale and Matt Kilmer’s sound is remarkably lush for a two-piece, and they managed to create an album that succeeds in mood, atmosphere, and technical work.

Kilmer’s tribal drumming is fucking fantastic--I’m convinced there aren’t three better drummers alive. The degree of difficulty is high on his quickened, tribal rhythms, and even higher when you consider how tasteful his drumming is. He’s constantly adding positive wrinkles to the songs with just his drums (such a basic instrument). Then there’s Haale, who is terrifically pretty and talented at the same time. She plays a hypnotic, arpeggio-laden electric guitar, which is in charge of the music’s melody and mood. Her voice and melodic sensibilities are akin to Chan Marshall of Cat Power, which is to say, Haale’s vocals are both dark and brooding but also fragile and deeply melodic. Haale is basically firing off rounds and rounds of hooks all throughout the album. Haale is an artful, talented-as-balls frontwoman.

What immediately catches your attention on Wild Poppies is that it’s quite obviously a two-piece. With The Mast, the revelation that only two instruments plus a voice is being used is a boon to the listening experience. The other dynamic that really works is the contrast between the music and Haale’s vocals. The guitar riffs have only a few modes, one being ascending, another descending, and the other one is an almost chromatic riff, where the guitar creates noticeable tension. The vocals, though, remain ethereal and soft, while the riff gets definitively sadder, brighter, or outright tenser. No matter the mode, every chord/arpeggio change is thoroughly pronounced, giving the songs are much bigger feel than a guitar-drums setup. “Trump” ascends to a place of maximum tension, then drops out when Haale delivers the song’s hook. It should be noted, Kilmer is fucking slaying it on this song, which is the not-so-secret reason this song is as great as it is. The guitar is simple is hell, but effective, and Haale’s melody is great but this song would be too thin without some jaw-breaking percussion from Kilmer. Haale’s wordless falsetto, quite angelic, is the thrilling climax to a tremendous song.

“Prize” has a buzzing guitar riff that’s very Hail to the Thief-ian. Kilmer is seemingly playing in some alien time signature. “Lucid Dreaming” has a great start-stop rhythm, giving The Mast a bit more punch. The atmosphere around the vocals can be pretty weighty, probably to account for the missing space a two-piece creates. The album has a constant stream, and it would have been nice if there were a couple of songs focused on more minimalist ideas. In a way, it seems each song is a pronounced statement of unbridled charisma, like “Hey, we’re The Fucking Mast!”, but the album, in terms of flow and mood, doesn’t match each song’s greatness. Haale, in her angelic way, has her melodies go balls-to-the-wall every time, even when Kilmer reserves his drumming (which he actually does quite often). On its own, “My All” is a really good song, but in the middle of the album, I can’t but wonder what if it was a more spacious ballad. In other words, I’d like to see The Mast revel (in select spots) in the fact they’re a two-piece and not always have to compensate for it.

Overall, however, the amount of polish of The Mast’s debut album is remarkable. The remind me a little bit of the rock version of The Knife, a brooding, atmospheric duo. They should be setting venues and festivals ablaze all throughout the country, because they’re really damn talented and really damn unique.

Track List:

1. Wild Poppies
2. Trump
3. EOA
4. My All
5. Prize
6. The Lake
7. Definitions
8. Hummingbird
9. Lucid Dream

The Mast: Wild Poppies
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

84 / 100
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