Bill Binkelman - WIND and WIRE
With Mason Stevens' album Luna Waves, I think we finally have the first true "space blues" album. This man can PLAY his '63 Fender Jazzmaster, folks. You'll be able to tell that about one-minute in on the first cut, "blue cat swamp." Yow! The snazzy Hammond organ (played on one of two synths that Stevens credits in the liner notes) and the gut-wrenching thumpety-thump bass (an Ibanez Roadstar II) certainly don't hinder the mojo-workin' feel of the track either! Yes, I do believe this is both bluesy AND spacy!
Obviously, if you don't like electric guitar, this is not going to clean your solar (or lunar) clock. Granted, other textures abound throughout the CD (synths galore in a variety of styles and tones, usually used for coloring and atmosphere but not always subdued either). But many times Stevens places that axe way up front (such as on "primal awakening" - with the emphasis on "awakening!"). Jeff Pearce billows of ambience this CD ain't! But it sure is fun and funky and cool and even dark and mysterious at times.
Having said this is not Jeff Pearce-like music, there are some more mellow cuts (relatively speaking), like the smoky and haunting "mist before dawn," the synth-shimmering "morning calm," and the closest thing to a more ambient vibe-sounding "reflections" (which, I suppose, could be compared to Jeff Pearce's first album, Tenderness and Fatality). However, most of the fun on Luna Waves comes from the more revved-up tracks, such as the jazzy/bluesy "solo wings" and the creepy/spooky "cavern's end."
My favorite song, though, is the title track which is also the last cut on the album. That shuffling back-alley beat drives me crazy (in a good way) and those stinging yet subdued bluesy lead lines really gets my spacy groove thang going full steam ahead. I'll wager that this is what they'll listen to on Mars on a Saturday night (at a bar like Minneapolis's Stand-Up Frank's where the booze is always cheap!). People will peel out of their atmosphere suits, cozy up to the thermal heaters, and feel the bitterness of the work week slaving in the ice-cap hydroelectric plants melt away as the bourbon hits the back of their throats.
Man, this is one cool CD. Electric guitar lovers (such as fans of Jon Durant - although this is nothing like his work) - this one is mo' definitely custom-made for you!
Hannah M.G. Shapero - EER-MUSIC.com
The Nashville-based label "SpaceForMusic" specializes in mixing pop, blues, rock, and electronic music in an upbeat, friendly American style. Their main band is the veteran planetarium soundtrack ensemble "SpaceCraft," but they have plenty of friends adding to the label's tradition. Mason Stevens is one of them. Luna Waves is a charming mix of languid blues guitar, casual salon jazz pickin', rock solo-izing, and spacey electronics. The guitar always leads, and the rhythms are understated and machine-generated. Some of the tracks feature a harder guitar sound, a bit like Santana or Pink Floyd, but in my opinion Stevens' best work on this album is on the quieter tracks when he sits back and lays down some sweet, rambling note-lines while the synthesizer glimmers in the background.
Phil Derby - Expose Magazine
From the opening notes of "Blue Cat Swamp," I can tell I'm going outside my comfort zone here. Ambient music mixed with blues? Ok, let's just go with it. "Primal Awakening" confirms the bluesy nature of the musical proceedings. Using just two synthesizers and an electric guitar and bass, Stevens paints a rich sonic palette with a diverse array of tonal colors in these eleven relatively short vignettes. "Mist Before Dawn" begins more firmly rooted in ambient textures, but the guitar never leaves for long. This one has an eerie, mysterious feel. I really like the flowing synth sounds, and the main guitar theme blends well. "Morning Calm" is perfectly titled, an effective mood piece. Also good is "Solo Wings," which has a really nice bass line and percussion. "Shadows in the Rain" is the longest track at eight minutes, another interesting hybrid. As the blues guitar solo meanders through, dark synth choirs and ambient rumblings lurk in the background. My personal favorite is probably "Cavern's End," which just sort of walks along in its own time, with a cool sound I can't identify used to keep the beat. "Reflections" almost reminds me of ambient guitarist Jeff Pearce, but is still infused with shades of blues. "Fire Dance" is planted squarely in blues rock roots, a short catchy piece. The dark atmospheric textures of the title track bring the disc to a reflective end. Grab a glass of wine and chill.
Jim Brenholts for Ambient Visions
One Step Into The Unknown
Mason Stevens is an electronic guitarist with a unique twist. He combines an electric guitar with processed guitars and sequenced percussion (or so it seems). One Step into the Unknown is a set of very cool space music compositions tinged with Mason’s sense of humor. His titles are – generally – tongue in cheek, or – more appropriately – “pick in pocket.” With titles like “Chili Peppers in Orbit” and “Matador on Mars,” listeners expect and get some bounce for their bucks. Mason’s style and technique give the compositions flair and panache. The joy of the music makes the set seem like one gigantic scherzo. Succinctly, this CD is lots of fun!
Luna Waves is a set of electronic funk and blues from Mason Stevens, an expert at combining traditional electric guitars with modern processed and electronic guitars. He surrounds rock and roll riffs with huge atmospheres and contrasts steamy blues with dynamic soundscapes. The unique perspective is quite refreshing and makes deep listening a challenging experience. This CD, on the SpaceForMusic label, is an instant classic!
Cosmic Flight is a dynamic collab from Mason Stevens, Tony Gerber and William Linton. It is also a testament to Mason’s “guitartistry.” Tony has a reputation as one of e-music’s finest guitarists. On this disc, however, Mason handles ALL of the guitar work! Tony and William handle the synths. And it is an awesome CD! It is much more ambient and atmospheric than listeners expect from Tony and he handles it well! Mason’s guitar is smooth and it flows around and through voluminous cloudy atmospheres and soundscapes. This is a very cool and relaxing sound.
The second release for Mason Stevens on the SFM label. Space Blues solid and true. This man knows how to express himself with the guitar! A great followup to "Luna Waves"... Unique and exciting guitar based space/ambient with flares of progressive rock sounds. All guitar fans should have this one in their collection.
"Mason Stevens is an electronic guitarist with a unique twist. ...One Step into the Unknown is a set of very cool space music compositions tinged with Mason’s sense of humor. ...Mason’s style and technique give the compositions flair and panache. The joy of the music makes the set seem like one gigantic scherzo. Succinctly, this CD is lots of fun! "
Jim Brenholts for Ambient Visions
Drift off into a blue ambient dream world where the darkness of night rules, interrupted only by the mysterious forces of the swamp and the soulful glimmer of the moon. Surreal Visual Music where blues infused guitar meets dark atmospheric synthesizers to create what is being called a new genre of music- Space Blues.
E Music radio lists "Luna Waves" on Monthly Top 20 for February 2002
"Very cool tune ('Forbidden Trail' off 'Luna Waves')...The best, dude!" Jeff Straub/Texas Hot Radio
"Stevens paints a rich sonic palette with diverse array of tonal colors... Grab a glass of wine and chill. "
Phil Derby - Expose Magazine
"It's dreamy and good for the soul. "
"I think we finally have the first true "space blues" album. This man can PLAY his '63 Fender Jazzmaster, folks...Yow!... Man, this is one cool CD. Electric guitar lovers... this one is mo' definitely custom made for you!"
Bill Binkelman - Wind and Wire
"Luna Waves is a charming mix of languid blues guitar, casual salon jazz pickin', rock solo-izing, and spacey electronics. "
Recorded in 1986, this album was the result of several live, improvisational sessions with William Linton and Tony Gerber. It was featured on a special Hearts of Space dedicated to human exploration.
"this music soars to convey the listener to interstellar vistas... the structure rises to float overhead like a pulsing cloud of patience... This music maintains a languid quality, drenching the listener with oracular shadows of sound."
Matt Howarth - Sonic Curiosity