Mask Of Confidence Mask Of Confidence
- 1The Hunger04:25
- 2You're Gonna Make Me03:56
- 3As The Bark To The Tree04:32
- 4Shiny Objects03:46
- 52020 Vision04:02
- 7A Postcard From a Future04:12
- 8Tooth & Nail03:36
- 9Corpulent Maenad04:22
- 10The Spinistry Of Men04:19
Info for Mask Of Confidence
A couple of years back, production impresario and groundbreaking soundscapist Stefano Castagna of Italy’s celebrated Ritmo & Blu studio had an idea when he overheard his friend Fabio Trentini experimenting with the unique bass style pioneered by the incomparable Mick Karn. Rising to fame in the late 70s/early 80s with the genre-defying British act Japan, Karn’s seamless, curving fretless bass lines and singer David Sylvian’s romantic, vibrato-laden baritone voice defined the band’s sound and drove its international success, exerting a major influence on the New Romantic bands that would soon follow as well as emerging bass luminaries like Pino Palladino and Mark Sandman. After Japan’s demise in the early 1980s, Mick Karn began releasing solo and project material, and he was eagerly recruited to collaborate with a diverse range of acclaimed artists including Gary Numan, Peter Murphy, Diana Ross, Kate Bush and more. Also an accomplished painter and sculptor, Mick continued working in all these media and redefining the role of the bass guitar in modern music until his untimely death in January of 2011.
Stefano Castagna’s immense discography includes everything from innumerable international dance hits to cutting-edge experimental sonic and ambient adventures with artists including Laurie Amat from The Residents. Inspired and intrigued by Karn’s bass approach, around 2018 Stefano and Fabio, a Gold and Platinum award-winning producer and bassist, singer, guitarist and composer in his own right, began exploring the possibilities of using this inspiration to create new music for today. Not an imitation, an innovation, in much the same way bassists as wide-ranging as Mark King, Bootsy Collins, Flea and Les Claypool were inspired to create their own signature sounds and music from the original thumb-slapping-finger-plucking bass style of Larry Graham. Stefano and Fabio began exchanging song sketches, building the ideas around Karn-inspired fretless bass lines that Fabio refined at his home studio in Italy’s Dolomite Mountains. Fabio’s excitement for the project soon infected his friends and frequent collaborators, Touch Guitar® virtuoso innovator Markus Reuter and stellar King Crimson drummer Pat Mastelotto, whose collective credits include work with icons like Stick Men, XTC, Robert Fripp, and even Japan singer David Sylvian. Back at Ritmo & Blu, Stefano added yet another important color to the sound picture, recruiting local woodwind talents Angela Kinczly and Giovanni Forestan to stir some clarinet, bass clarinet and sax into the recipe. This proved to be a clever move, creating an added earthy sonic element that elegantly weaves its way throughout the record.
While live recording sessions were held at Ritmo & Blu when possible, the team also used the benefits of the Internet and today’s digital recording and communication technology, sending their contributions as sound files back and forth to one another from their home bases around the world. By early 2020 they had completed recording a monumental prog-tinged instrumental album. During this phase in particular and later in the final mix, Stefano and Fabio’s additional expertise in analog studio technology raised the recordings to a whole new level. Using physical hardware and analog master tapes to manifest a production mentality of the "here and now", this transformed the mixing process into a creative and unrepeatable moment as only analog technology and experienced hands can.
Preparations for the record’s release had begun when the question came up, “What would it be like with vocals?”. Some early attempts were made with various singers, but nothing really stood out, and then Covid struck, initially sending the world into a state of paralysis. It was during this period of stasis that Fabio turned to his old friend and collaborator Jeff Collier. The two had worked over the years on countless productions and songwriting collaborations, including for Fabio’s highly praised solo project Moonbound. Based in Berlin, Jeff is an American drummer, singer and songwriting veteran who has worked with influential acts such as The Waterboys, IAMX and Laura Carbone, and preeminent producers including Tony Visconti and Jim Abbiss. Fabio knew that Jeff is also a massive Japan fan, and so during the spring of the 2020 lockdown he asked Jeff if he would be interested in trying to write lyrics and record vocals for the new, as-yet-unnamed project. In a prime example of how imperfect times can yield perfect timing, Fabio’s inquiry found Jeff stuck at home with nothing musical to do, and all day to do it. Jeff dove into the project with both feet, spotting out the places within the intricate arrangements where vocals made sense, where they would add to rather than detract from the picture, and furiously writing lyrics inspired by the music and driven by the deteriorating state of the world flashing by on screens and headlines everywhere in the chaotic summer of 2020. In the temporary travel window that opened up briefly in September, Jeff flew to Italy and met up with Fabio and Stefano at Ritmo & Blu studio and recorded vocals for eight of the ten tracks on the debut album by the act now officially called Mask Of Confidence, a final nod to Mr. Karn, taken from a spellbinding sculpture of the same name in his repertoire. With lyrics prodding topics of love, dignity, absurdity and meaning, dystopia and justice in a world literally on fire, Jeff Collier’s vocals stretch from deep bass growlings to Sylvianesque airs to spoken word musings and soaring melodic heights, adding a front-facing connective dimension to the elaborate tapestry of the music for the listener.
The record opens with “The Hunger”, a loping nighttime descent down winding mountain trails toward something that feels like “home”, a longing more ancient even than language. “The Hunger” reveals the full magnitude of the musical journey that lies ahead, without revealing the unexpected twists and turns to come. “You’re Gonna Make Me” and “As The Bark To The Tree” follow, exploring the peaks and valleys of the love-hate relationship that is romantic love itself. The driving “Shiny Objects” then casts a sarcastic eye on the folly of unbridled consumerism, after which “2020 Vision” stomps in, bringing the full gravitational weight of the year it reluctantly commemorates to bear. “2020 Vision” is a visceral real-time litany of fear and disorientation, of firebrand demagogues, flaming cities, a global wildfire of disease, and of the very human resolve not only to survive, but to rise and overcome. The denouement that follows, the instrumental track “Costa”, takes us thankfully then to a more pastoral setting to regenerate and recalibrate, just in time for “A Postcard From A Future”, a slyly jaunty musical mosaic set against a deadpan dystopian narrative detailing just another day in a world we might already be living in. “Tooth & Nail” and the instrumental “Corpulent Maenad” plumb the depths of exhaustion and unease of our time, of this time. The album closes with “The Spinistry Of Men”, a fast-paced melodic scurry past the haughty hypocrisy of those we have chosen to lead us with the final desperate plea, “Hear the angels cry!”.
So, a tribute? Yes. A tribute album? No. Using the full scope of their own exceptional talents and individual inspirations, Mask Of Confidence have created a unique and unified tour de force that stands on its own. With roots in the past, the Mask Of Confidence debut album boldly faces the present and the future, unflinching, uncompromising, unblinking. With new material already in the works, whatever comes, this team of extraordinary artists will greet it with the confidence of open eyes.
Stefano Castagna, keyboards, guitars, tavola di Flos, samplers, treatments, programming
Fabio Trentini, fretless bass, keyboards, guitars, loops & treatments, backing vocals, percussion
Jeff Collier, lead vocals, percussion
Pat Mastelotto, drums & percussion
Markus Reuter, touch guitar
Angela Kinczly, clarinet
Giovanni Forestan, bass clarinet, saxophone
Born in 1959, his approach to music has been conditioned both by his guitar playing and the strategies and abilities he has developed in his professional life as a sound engineer. In his own recording studio, Ritmo&Blu, he has been writing and/or producing disparate music for more than 20 years now: dance music, Italian indie music, soundtracks and performances for theatre, ballet and visual art exhibitions. In 2011 he directed the Emotional Orchestra at La Collina di Lorenzo (Castiglione delle Stiviere, Mantova, Italy), an experiment of wind, wood and percussions sounds with players hidden behind the trees on a sloping hill at night, with the public in the centre. With Luca Formentini and other 3 friends, he is also a member of Segesto, an association for unexpected music which organised the first Loop Fest in Brescia at the end of May 2014 Exploring different styles has endowed him with an huge repertoire that enables him to collaborate with Luca Formentini at the Flos project, where he can combine the different languages of his professional life with electronic music, his love for unconventional acoustic sounds with the technicalities of digital processing and looping.