1/ The Blast, The Bloom (TA,Holden,Sawyer,Werner) 3.29 1/ Drown in Blue (Mase,Doncker) 4.05 2/ Half-Life (Mase,Doncker) 4.27 3/ Things That Scare Me (2014 Club Version) (Mase,Doncker) 5.27 4/ The Heart Beats (Mase,Doncker) 2.55 5/ Gaping Hole (Mase,Doncker) 3.54 6/ Drown in Blue (reprise) (Mase,Doncker) 1.38 7/ Bitch in Heat (Mase,Doncker) 5.53 8/ Hold Fast Your Dreams (Mase,Mase,Driscoll) 2.35 Recorded at Orange Music Sound Studio, West Orange, New Jersey Engineered and mixed by James Dellatacoma Produced by Tomas Doncker and James Dellatacoma for True Groove Mastered by Michael Fossenkemper at Turtle Tone Studio, NYCMarla Mase: vocals; Tomás Doncker: guitar, background vocals; James Dellatacoma: guitar, keyboard; Josh David: bass, background vocals; Kevin Jenkins: bass; Bill Laswell: bass (4); Mike Faulkner: drums, background vocals; David Barnes: harmonica; Mark Henry: sax; Manu Koch: keyboards; Charlie Funk: background vocals (7); Heather Powell: background vocals; Sam Claiborne: auraluminence.
2014 - True Groove (USA), ???? (digital)
The album kicks off with a bluesy but lively heavy rock tune called ‘Drown In Blue’, presenting an intriguing combination of Marla Mase’s soulful voice and a meaty, dirty guitar tone that provides the right balance. There’s a good dosage of spoken-word as well, reminiscent of Jim Morrison to a large extent. It gives the album the best possible start one could have expected, and then goes into the contrasting title track, which showcases a darker, more seductive facet of Mase’s vocals with a minimal but apt amount of instrumentation to go with it, although the sax is more prominent and adds further to the expression of the song.
Next comes a club remix version of ‘Things That Scare Me’, a song originally part of Mase’s debut album ‘A Brief Night Out’, and in all honesty, even though this club version might find appreciation amongst a certain section of listeners, the song should have been left untouched as it sounds best in its original form. But the album quickly recovers and returns to the vibe it set with the first two songs, with ‘The Heart Beats’ offering yet more of the impressive Morrison-esque spoken-word style delivery by Mase. This is followed by a relatively upbeat ‘Gaping Hole’, an alternative/lounge rock track that does well to change things up a bit.
The acoustic reprise version of ‘Drown In Blue’ sounds excellent, and through its two different but equally impressive versions, the song is firmly established as the best composition on this album. From this, the album takes another wild turn and offers a funky rock track called ‘Bitch In Heat’, and ends out on a somber note with ‘Hold Fast Your Dreams’.
‘Half-Life’ enhances Marla Mase’s reputation as a songwriter and performer, and the passion in her musicianship is clearly felt in these tunes. The album definitely holds a strong appeal for listeners who admire the likes of The Doors and Lou Reed and enjoy rock with a bit of soul, spoken-word and funk interspersed in it. Metal Assault is certainly enjoying this album and recommends you to check it out.
Andrew Bansal (courtesy of the Metal Assault website)
There are musicians, there are multi-talented artists, and there are rebels with a cause. New York native Marla Mase comfortably fits all three categories and many more. Besides also being a fierce advocate for women empowerment, this energetic mother of two is an accomplished playwright. In fact, writing for the stage is what Mase is trained to do: her healthy résumé features an MA in Writing and Performance from the New York University. She put her mastery of this particular form of art to good use, scripting a number of plays, including The Canarsie Line, a sold-out show performed at the beginning of 2002 at the Bank Street Theatre. Another of her pieces, ‘A Brief Night Out’ (BNO), metamorphosed into the album that heralded Marla’s arrival on the music scene. It is when, on the recommendation of a friend, she began focusing her energies on penning lyrics. Not long after that she hooked up with guitar maestro and genius producer Tomás Doncker, a fellow New Yorker, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Which is not to say that BNO is where it all began for Mase musically. By the time they were pulling out her milk teeth she had sang in a local talent show and was falling in love with the piano, but the meeting with Doncker marked the start of Marla’s journey as a recording artist and the first-fruits of this relationship was Speak. This angry, unapologetically eclectic offering hit the streets in February 2013 and immediately cast Mase as a crusader who would not be restrained by the boundaries of genre. One of the defining cuts on this album was “Piece of Peace”, a cry for peace which she wrote for a UN Global Peace Day concert in Linzhou, China. Speak had critics describing her as a “complicated artist, but one who is very human and easy to relate to” and set the tone perfectly for her follow-up Half-Life. Like its predecessor, Half-Life was released on Doncker’s True Groove production house.
The opener of this eight-track offering, “Drown In Blue” tears its way into your conscience with snarling guitars and frenzied drums. After you’re sufficiently primed for frantic moshing, Marla begins to purr about her efforts to flee from the blues by living life on the fast lane. You can catch your breath on the title track, a jazzy, downtempo cut designed to induce a bit of introspection. Perhaps there should be a highway sign to warn you of the punk flare-up on minute 1:30. But there is none, and the guitars subside just as suddenly as they started, giving way to a brief spoken word session. Marla then bares her soul in theatrical reflections of her life over a quirky track that could have qualified as pop-rock were it not for the horns and all the chaotic sound effects stirred into it. The results probably would have been dismal if the author and performer was not Marla Mase. But in the NY native’s hands this conglomeration of sounds comes out as a fun accompaniment for banal chores.
Again you’re called to meditation and reflection on “The Heart Beats” and you can feel the bonfire crackling and coyotes whining as Marla recites her poetry in a haunting, breathy tone. Bass drums are pounded in a hypnotic rhythm, interrupted only by faded guitar notes distorted almost beyond recognition. You might want to have some marshmallows handy for this one.
Of the octet of songs, the most readily classifiable as radio fodder is “Gaping Hole”. Even here, Marla stays true to herself with deeply personal lyrics depicting a dissatisfied soul searching for something to fill a gaping void. If Marla wished to close out this album with a reminder of her versatility, she couldn’t have done it better than with the jazz-infused “Hold Fast Your Dreams”. Buoyed by gently caressed cymbals, a subdued baseline and dollops of nostalgic piano, Mase whispers words derived from Louise Driscoll’s poem with which the song also shares a title.
Phil Kimm courtesy of the RockRevolt Magazine website)