During the late 1970s, continuing across the '80s and '90s in evolving forms, a new music emerged from the Italian underground. Blending avant-garde and experimental approaches with those of ambient music and numerous other idioms - often embracing decidedly transnational creative view, artists like Giusto Pio, Luciano Cilio, Roberto Cacciapaglia, Arturo Stalteri, Franco Battiato, Riccardo Sinigaglia, Walter Maioli, Lino Capra Vaccina, Francesco Paladino, Pier Luigi Andreoni, and numerous others, created a body of work and practice unlike any before or since. Among the most important and beloved of these artists is Gigi Masin. Despite having only produced a relatively slim discography during the height of the Italian minimalist movement, his cult following over the ensuing decades is impossible to underplay. Thankfully, having entered into a number of periods of inactivity, Masin has increasingly re-entered the fore, producing a handful of stunning releases in the last few years. Of these, Plays Venezia - originally issued by the Silentes sub-imprint, 13, back in 2016 as a very limited CD / Book edition - is easily among the most beautiful and striking. Now, after years out of print, the label returns with an expanded version of the album’s, reissuing it on vinyl for the first time, as well as on CD and cassette, in an edition of just 100 copies. Built from sublime sheets of piano and ambience, threaded by diverse sonorous sources, it’s by far one of the most stunning reissues of the year.
Like so many of us, Gigi Masin entered the world of music as a devoted fan. This passion led to his becoming a radio DJ at the age of 18, followed by a period of working within theatre contexts, manipulating records during performances. It was the later that eventually laid the groundwork, during the late 1970s, for a body of experimental sound collages made from tape loops, field recordings and turntablism, through which Masin discovered his own musical voice, culminating in the release of his legendary debut album, Wind, in 1987.
For an artist of his stature, Masin’s output has been relatively constrained over the last 40 years. During the '80s and early '90s, his discography only counts three releases - Wind; a split LP with Charles Hayward, Les Nouvelles Musiques de Chambre Volume 2; and The Wind Collector, his brilliant collaboration with Alessandro Monti; before leaving a gap of a full decade until his next release in 2001. Thankfully, over 20 years since his reemergence, Masin’s discography has begun to swell, reaching a notable crest with 2016’s Plays Venezia, issued by 13.
Originally accompanied by Stefano Gentile’s photographic book, Il Silenzio dei Tuoi Passi (The Silence of Your Steps), a series of 56 pictures dedicated to the nights in Venice - streets, alleys and squares - in search of the true 'breath' of the city, those meditative visual meandering offer insights into the sounds that Masin set out to produce across the length of Plays Venezia, now expanded in its latest editions to include two additional works.
An homage to his hometown, Plays Venezia comprises three discrete compositions, a re-edit of the original work that appeared in 2016, as well as Abandoned Venice - a piece dedicated to Harold Budd - and October in Venice, a sprawling 32-minute body of ambient, electroacoustic mastery. Rippling out into a cavernous impressions of space, each of these efforts explores, sculpts, and demarcates its own distinct sense of place in time, feeling creatively singular within the fluid, heart-wrenching totality of the album’s duration, drawing on a vast pallet of sound sources to weave - primarily around his delicate piano playing - voluminous sheets of ambience and tone that immerse the ear in abstract images - brooding and ecstatic - of the city he loves.
Deeply personal, intimate, and emotive, Plays Venezia encounters Masin at his absolute best, absorbed in the striking potential of organized sound. Impossible to recommend enough. One of Italy’s greatest creative voices like we’ve rarely heard him before.