Chris Mason was an artist before he was a musician. My Majestic Star began as a solo project to back up his visual work, and over the last six or so years has perhaps overtaken his own artwork. Certainly there isn’t any mention of upcoming exhibitions or displays in any of the press material I’ve yet seen for the band, of which Mason is very much the driving force, suggesting that he finds working with sound a more satisfying pursuit than using brushes and an easel.
I might take a closer look at Mason’s actual artwork later but this article is about music, specifically it’s about the music presented on the latest release from the Perth, Australia based quartet, their third full length album I Haven’t Got It In Me poses some mildly awkward questions though, such as its title : who hasn’t got what in them? who is the ‘I’ of the title? If they haven’t actually got it in them, is it kept elsewhere? I wouldn’t normally get quite so involved in deconstructing the semantics of an album title but My Majestic Star, including by extension Chris Mason himself, very definitely have something in them and it is undeniably a work of quite some merit, a deftly scored symphony of melancholia and euphoria colliding in a fractalised, chaotic series of movements based around a revolving sequence of instrumentation.
First track “Stranger” is slightly over 8 minutes in length, opening with a sonorous and seemingly endless keyboard chord that functions as an introduction to what really makes provides both I Haven’t Got It In Me and the band themselves with the depth of musicality that sets them slightly apart from other bands I’ve heard recently that are working in similar areas, and that is the cello playing of Miriam Braun, whose improvisatory skills complement the delayed and phased guitars and drums of the rest of the band (Mason, Stuart Medley and Jamie Hamilton) providing as they do a cauterising baritone presence around which the other three musicians can weave some presence of their own. Then third track “Hi” begins with some grimy sounding cello stringing which is swiftly overtaken by some bright guitar chordage and swooning backing vocals, and it occurred to me that the impulse to rely more heavily on electronics at the expense of stringed instruments must’ve been a strong one, but as the track develops into a pizzicato cello and guitar duet it’s obvious that My Majestic Star are finding stringed playing far more musically rewarding than just letting the sequencers do it all, and they’re sufficiently skilled at this to probably record an entire album of dueting of this kind, but next track “Like Cracked Glass” reveals more of their actual inspirations, a swirling old-school shoegaze epic redolent of My Bloody Valentine, except with cello where you might expect to hear multiple levels of reverb drenched feedback.
The experimentation continues, with the delicate melodies of “Uncertain Terms” contradicting the dark reflections of “City Sleeps” and moving into the metronomed slowcore thrash of “Mitre Peak” with surprising agility: clearly possessed of more than one singular notion of what the name ‘My Majestic Star’ could be taken to represent, there’s a noticeably practised skill at work throughout the ten tracks on I Haven’t Got It In Me and while the music can sometimes feel slightly too well mannered and structurally concise, there’s sufficient invention at work here to keep any listener on their toes, awaiting the next turn of the bow and plectrum.