Atmosphere is key on Volans-1800, the second album from Switzerland’s Ian Mason. At 18 years old, Mason’s musical palette already incorporates ambient, drone and noise music and elements of avant-garde classical, all fused together with what Mason calls a “punk rock attitude”.
The electronic soundscapes are bleak, dark, brooding and otherworldly. Samples of string instruments provide minimalist melodic or chordal interest and tension, and spacey sound effects creep in and out.
Mason has a very strong grasp of harmony that would put a lot of far more experienced noise / ambient producers to shame. His use of musical intervals to create tension and resolution is admirable and lends a journey-like quality to the music that can sometimes be lacking in works from this type of genre.
Through the five tracks of varying lengths - all titled simply Volans-1800 with a Suffix denoting the track number - the droning unease continues and follows peaks and troughs. There is a sense of chaos, mystery and even the reverence of contemporary classical music within the deep tones. There are some truly magical moments. “Volans-1800, Pt Four” features a descending drone section which made me want to either throw up or grab on to something for dear life.
On occasion Mason’s relative lack of experience shows. The intention of using the string samples is ambiguous. Are these meant to be electronic / “keyboard” sounds (in which case the sounds could be made to be more robotic or lo-fi) or are they meant to sound like real acoustic instruments (in which case actual string players or a much more fine-detailed approach to programming and effects could be employed)? They don’t quite sit in either category and this can jar a little.
Album closer “Volans-1800 Pt. Five” is very different. A drumless psychedelic Stooges-esque wig-out; here we get to witness Mason’s rock influences. As the song disappears I am left not entirely satisfied with this musical journey, but equally aware that this album shows a great deal of promise, talent and creative drive.
Ian Mason says “Volans-1800 is my sound”. It certainly captures a moment, and it lays bare Mason’s determination to create idiosyncratic and challenging music. Mason’s sound will no doubt continue to twist and change. He can go in any direction he wants to. And he probably will. Watch out for him.
Volans-1800 is out now on streaming platforms including Spotify and Bandcamp.