Frank Maston lets loose his second record of 2021, following his entry into the KPM catalog in April. For Souvenir Maston still embraces his core of EU Library Music touches and soundtrack smooth grooves but also pushes further into prog-pop, Neo-soul, and jazz than he has in the past. For this record Frank opted out of the monastic confines of the producer / composer role, instead bringing on board fellow RSTB-faves and Swiss funk travelers L’Eclair as his backing band. The result is a record that’s silken and soulful but less overtly composed than his now classic sophomore LP, Tulips. The record is rougher around the edges, at least for a Maston release. Its still going to slide through the speakers with a pomade purr compared to most 2021 fare. If I’m being honest, wafting from classic wood cabinet components might be the only truly fitting setting for the contents of Souvenir.
The record is a mood setter to be sure — candlelit and caressed, but Maston’s precision keeps this from ever falling into pastiche. It boasts Maston’s first vocal contributions since his debut, something that truly sets this apart from the Tulips and Panorama sessions. Synths are saturated with a fiberglass and neon glow, organs trickle through humid air, and flutes drape over the entire record , but when Maston’s voice peeks through the the haze it’s with a reserved and quiet cool. It’s hard to remember sometimes that while he’s a consummate instrumentalist, Maston is also an ace pop producer, giving out-of-time touches to Paint and Bifannah, and helping to shape the sound of Jacco Gardner’s similarly rococo musical landscape. That same sensibility informs the vocal takes on Souvenir.
The record slips into a canon of sensual soul that’s free of bravado but self-assured and immaculately put together. Put this one on the shelf next to all-timers like Air’s work for The Virgin Suicides soundtrack or with contemporaries like Mndsgn or NxWorries. Frank’s proven himself a consummate curator of taste — as a producer, as a composer, as studio musician — and now he’s coming into his own as a frontman as well. The record’s only flaw might be that its over too soon. Souvenir is compact, but not a moment is wasted, leaving the listener to bathe in its purple glow again and again as its put on a constant rotation from dusk into the painted hours of dawn.
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