As a fertile breeding ground for creative, positive female talent, few locales boast as much of a pedigree as Ontario, Canada. From the breakthrough of trailblazers like Mitchie Mee to the emergence of modern soul sirens like Esthero, this metropolis has, through such female-oriented projects as the longstanding Honey Jam, done much to affirm the female's place in a testosterone-fueled climate. Treading a similar path as similar-minded artists like Eternia and Tara Chase, Toronto's Masia One presents a confident, accomplished debut album on "Mississauga," an assured work rich with lush, organic production and evocative lyricism that sits comfortably alongside the catalogues of her storied predecessors.
What is immediately evident halfway through the opening track "Halfway Through The City" is Masia's uncanny knack for weaving infectious hooks and conscientiously metered, elaborately structured cadences with jazzy, warm production. Her beat selection is impeccable, as is her ability to ride a beat with effortless ease- sounding equally at home on the ethereal, meandering "Oceanarium," the hypnotically dreamy stream-of-consciousness feel of "Nighttime Summertime" (which transforms the raw drum pattern of "Incarcerated Scarfaces" into a melodious dreampop masterpiece) and the frenetic, breakneck "Split Second Time," Masia displays a versatility and sense of adventure that eludes many of her male counterparts. While she clearly displays an affinity for technical, intricate structures, she seldom wanders into self-indulgency- her content remains on a consistently relatable level, from the bittersweet love letter of "Oceanarium" to the raucous, incendiary romp of "Diz Knee Land," this is an intensely personal work dripping with sincerity and conviction. It also helps that Masia has a divine voice, one that is somewhat reminiscent of Mecca Ladybug of the Digable Planets.
Extra bonus points must be awarded for the sheer variety of moods and sounds on this record- the naked soul of "Halfway Through The City" and "Nighttime Summertime" should burrow its way into coffee shops and incense-lit bedrooms, while the sweltering, manic energy of "Split Second Time," the bizarre broken beat of "Mobile To Mobile," the doomy trip-hop of "The Hazing" and the Kenny Ken-esque melodic drum n' bass of "Diz Knee Land" exhibit in-house producer Yoroku Saki's intimate knowledge of various styles within the electronic canon (Hell he samples Isotope 217!). Everything is executed with style and class, as Saki's soulful synths infuse the record with a profoundly warm, welcoming feel not unlike Nicolay's work on the new Foreign Exchange record.
It truly is a task attempting to identify flaws in this record- if there is one complaint that can be made it is the erratic mixing decisions on some of the tracks. The rumbling low end and pulsating drums do overwhelm the vocals sometimes, particularly on "Oceanarium" and "Mobile To Mobile," where Masia's whispers are drowned in the broken beat freakout of the track. Otherwise, this is absolutely essential listening, a fiercely assertive work from a tremendous talent.
Music Vibes: 9 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 9 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 9 of 10
Originally posted: November 9, 2004