By Julie Miller
from WXPN's The Key
Earlier this week Sun Airway welcomed the new year with a new song, taken from the forthcoming Heraldic Black Cherry LP that we expect to hear in full later this year. “All In” is the second track Jon Barthmus has shared since returning from a four year musical hiatus and features local singer-songwriter Cynthia G Mason on vocals.
If lead single “FOAM” pulled back on the prismatic sonic collages that spun previous outputs Soft Fall and Nocturne of Exploded Crystal Chandelier into sparkling whirlwinds of textures and colors in favor of a more focused pop vision, “All In” reaches back to the multimedia layers of those earlier works. A rustling of static carries in the saturated tropi-synths that buoy Barthmus and Mason’s dreamy duet. There’s a sprinking of bright distortion here, a 3D, technicolor scale slide there, and pieces of sounds that feel like snippets of larger, totally different projects floating throughout.
Stream “All In” here: https://soundcloud.com/sun-airway/all-in
Great time last night at Mantua Yacht Club! Thanks to everyone for joining me in serenading my friend Leonard on his b-day.
Photo: Amy Lackpour
Happy New Year! Thank you for a great 2015. Special thanks to John Vettese and WXPN, Haley and Justin at the Philadelphia Folksong Society, Pat Rapa, Grey Reverend, Ramon Monras-Sender, everyone at Miner Street, and Mike Pelusi for including Cinematic Turn in his top 10 new albums of 2015.
Thanks Phillymag.com for including "What Forgiveness Will Allow" here:
And listen to Jon!!! 5:00 pm tonight...
Merry Xmas/Holidays/New Year/Blah,
Thank you so much to Ben Hughes and Justin and Haley from the Philadelphia Folksong Society for inviting me to play at Milkboy last night to celebrate Ben's one-album-a-month project. Congrats to Ben for completing his 12th album of 2015! Yes, ALBUM. What?! Amazing.
November 2nd, 2015 | 8:30AM | By Sean Fennell
Some people look forward to the holiday season with a fervent passion, excitedly counting the day till Christmas music begins to play round the clock on the station formerly known as B101, and some don’t. Something tells me that Cynthia G. Mason falls in the latter group, but she may have just made a song that will be perfect for those who approach the holiday season with same tepid skepticism as she does.
In May we talked to Mason about her return to music from a eight-year hiatus and discussed her new album and release show at World Cafe Live. With the help of one of her collaborators, Grey Reverend, Mason has a new song which she feels capture the uncertainty and “extreme ambivalence” that some experience during the holiday season.
The track, titled “What Forgiveness Will Allow” is sparse and intimate and captures moments in time often glossed over, all with a beautiful and subtle arrangement from Grey Reverend. Give the track a listen below and catch Mason’s performance at Milkboy Philly on December 2 with New Jersey’s Ben Hughes.
Singer/Songwriters Cynthia G. Mason & Grey Reverend to Release New Holiday Single “What Forgiveness Will Allow”
Ever feel extreme ambivalence - or even complete dread - as the holiday season approaches? Philadelphia singer/songwriter Cynthia G. Mason examines these feelings in her new single “What Forgiveness Will Allow,” a collaboration with Brooklyn-based songwriter Larry D. Brown (aka Grey Reverend.) After a lifetime of Christmas-induced angst, Cynthia began listening faithfully to Jon Solomon’s “Annual 24-Hour Holiday Radio Show” on 103.3 WPRB while she developed a cookie recipe that involved violently crushing candy canes. The years passed; the recipe improved. And while some ambivalence lingers today, the complete dread has somewhat abated - tempered by the ingestion of disgusting amounts of peppermint cookies, the realization that everyone has holiday issues, and the satisfaction of listening to punk rock songs about Santa while dodging drunk drivers on the New Jersey Turnpike.
Cynthia first shared a home-recorded demo of “What Forgiveness Will Allow” this past summer with Larry who previously collaborated with her on the album Quitters Claim and who most recently shared the stage with her at World Cafe Live for the spring release of her EP Cinematic Turn. What began as an informal chat about collaborating on something new turned into a flurry of track exchanges as Larry added piano, strings, flute, bass, and drums to Cynthia’s fingerstyle guitar and hushed, talky vocals. The result of their collaboration is an intimate and honest story of ambivalence, contemplation, and finally resignation with Larry’s lush production supporting Cynthia’s frank assessment of attitudes and party options in the midst of holiday despair.
“What Forgiveness Allow” is available now on bandcamp and everywhere on November 20, 2015
[[Photo credits above: Lexie Giarraputo (2001); Chris Sikich (2015)]
I'll miss you. Love, Cynthia
Finishing up vocals this weekend on a new single! The song is a collaboration with Grey Reverend and will be released in the coming months. Be on the lookout for more news as we get closer and closer to winter...
Special thanks to Haley Velletri and the Philadelphia Folksong Society Co-op for inviting me to play the launch show last night of their first-Thursday residency at Bourbon & Branch. Thanks also to Rachel and Michael for doing an especially fantastic job with the sound. It's rare to hear acoustic guitars sound that good live.
Drawing from show by: Patrick Theaker
Thanks again to everyone at the Philadelphia Folksong Society for an amazing experience at the Philadelphia Folk Festival. It was my first time attending and playing and I couldn't have asked for a better day. The volunteers were extremely helpful, the crowd was so welcoming, all of the musicians were phenomenal. Thank you!!!
Thanks so much to the Philadelphia Folksong Society. I'm so excited to be playing the 54th Annual Philadelphia Folk Festival on Friday, August 14th! More details coming soon...
Essential New Music: Cynthia G. Mason’s “Cinematic Turn”
Returning after a seven-year hiatus from music, Philadelphia-based singer/songwriter Cynthia G. Mason has lost nary a step. Her new five-song EP is aptly titled; this music is as vivid, evocative and narratively compelling as a film. Songs like the title track and “One More Trip Back East” are both inviting and mysterious. Mason’s strikingly clear vocals and hypnotic acoustic-guitar arpeggios join together to form well-honed melodies. Her minimalistic lyrics never waste a breath, but they invite multiple interpretations.
Thanks to the subtle polish of Brian McTear’s production, hints of Suzanne Vega occasionally rise to the fore on Cinematic Turn. A trio of musicians (including drummer Christopher Sean Powell, also known as Pow Pow from Man Man) provide sympathetic backing. But the focus is truly on Mason here. The EP is as a clarion call, heralding the return of a singular talent.
May 27, 2015
>>> In a new interview with City Paper‘s Pat Rapa, Philly music scene stalwart Cynthia G. Mason discusses her return to music after an eight-year hiatus. So tonight’s record release party at World Cafe in support of her Cinematic Turn EP will be a homecoming for a voice that has been missing from our musical landscape for far too long. Welcome back, and please don’t leave us again.
By Patrick Rapa
Mason's new EP, Cinematic Turn — her first new music in eight years — gets the release-party treatment tonight at World Café Live.
Once and future Philly fixture Cynthia G. Mason says she hated music for awhile — that’s why it’s been eight years since she gave us something new to listen to. Now she’s back with Cinematic Turn, a stunning and understated EP that delivers classic CGM acoustic gorgeousness with a newfound urgency. We “spoke” over email about why she left, why she’s back and why she walks the modern social media hellscape with a flip phone in her pocket.
You said part of the reason you left music was you weren’t enjoying it anymore. Actually, I think you said you “hated” it. What was wrong? Was it music or was it you?
Oh, it was probably both. I had been playing music since I was a child, then playing all ages shows, clubs/bars since I was a teenager — in bands and solo. I’d had short breaks from it before where I developed some contempt for it, didn’t enjoy doing it for whatever reason. But, this time it got to the point where every new album I heard just sounded terrible, everything I tried to write sounded terrible, and every show made me feel terrible. For the first time, I started saying “no” to every show. I took my guitar and gear and put it in a closet in my house, closed the door, and that was it. It was a little extreme. But, yeah, friends have told me that there was maybe a dip in their interest in music during those years, too, and also a complete change in the music business. And, of course, some of it is that I got older, met my husband and had a kid, and I wanted to sit down at the end of the night and quietly read instead of go out to rock shows. But, I think I know now that desire for quiet and calm, spending time with my family, doesn’t have to mean completely eliminating music from my life like the infectious disease that I made it out to be. I guess you must really love something to hate it that much.
I’m also going to pull the lady card and say that I do think it’s harder for women who decide to have children to continue at the pace they are going with music — recording, touring, finding time to write, practicing. Caring for an infant and then toddler can be all-consuming and you see a lot of ladies dropping out at a pretty high rate at a certain point in their lives. I have seen some returning, too, sometimes when the kiddies get a little older and it gets more manageable.
So what’s changed? How did you and music get back on better terms?
Small moments, a few big things. My husband and I would venture out every once in a while. He knew I was missing music, but that it was a touchy subject for me, so we would go out infrequently, check something out and he’d look over to gauge my reaction, like “What do you think? Is this doing anything for you?” In 2013, we went to that ‘Dancing Around the Bride’ exhibit with Lee Ranaldo at the Art Museum and he was getting all of these cool sounds out of his guitar, performing John Cage. Dancers would pop out every once in a while to perform. We spent the whole day there, wandering around the room, taking it all in. I remember I had a horrible cold, but we were both just in the zone. That show had an effect on me, there was some kind of spark. We would go into Fergie’s and listen to some Irish music over a beer, get the nosebleeds at the Philadelphia Orchestra. Laura Marling and Jason Isbell released records that year with some killer songs. So, I started listening more, looking around to see what was out there for the first time in a long time. That got me more interested in playing and my fingers started to itch for the guitar.
Some of it is just time. I have a little bit more time for it now. My daughter is getting closer to 5 and can occupy herself a little more. It’s easier to find those odd times in the day to pick up the guitar and noodle around and get into my own head a little bit, spend some time alone.
I’ve had this old-man thought about awesome musicians who fade away when life/family/work start piling up: I just hope those kids get to see their parents play, on stage, with people clapping. To see how much ass their moms and dads can kick. Does it mean something to you have your daughter see you perform?
It was really something when I first pulled the guitar out and started playing for my daughter. I remember she looked at me with a look of such surprise and curiosity and actually said, “Mommy, you play the guitar?” We looked at each other with our eyes bugging out of our heads. I was just as alarmed. My own kid didn’t know I played the guitar? What?
Now, as soon as she sees me pull out the guitar, she will immediately grab her little drum and start playing with me, conducting, and yelling “Louder!” “Faster!” She is way more punk rock than I am. Maybe there is a drum kit in her future.
There’s still that same old sadness in your new music, but I’m detecting maybe something else: a new energy or urgency, maybe? Do you feel your sound has changed?
I’m still drawn to the sad things. Mournful, sad songs. Those are always the songs that knock me out. I’ll hear a song that sounds like pure grief somewhere. I want it to hit me in the gut. I want to try to hit someone in the gut. I don’t want to mess around.
I think the songs might be a little more driven, a little more complete. I wrote a lot of them on the train or waiting for the train. The instrumentation on the recording really came together nicely and added a lot to each song.
Since you’ve been gone, music has become a short-attention-span dystopian hellscape dominated by social media and self-promotion. Are you dealing?
Yeah, didn’t someone just discover that we officially now have the attention span of goldfish? I’ve tried to avoid the hellscape/social media for so long. I still have my flip phone, even though it has dropped on the floor and down many, many flights of stairs. When I’m away from the computer, I’m away from all of it. But, like many people, I still spend way too much time in front of the computer each day. I don’t like that everyone just stares at their phones all day, fondling them.
I’ve always been a beat behind with this stuff. I was crotchety when I was 20. I never liked CDs and held onto my cassettes. Then I didn’t like mp3s and held onto my CDs, even though I never liked CDs. I liked vinyl, but didn’t love it the way I should have. Now, I’m being told that people are making/buying cassettes again, so it’s time to go deeper into that closet and pull out my old boxes of cassettes from ’96, ’98, start trying to sell those at shows. There were listservs, there was Friendster, then Myspace. By the time Facebook came along, I was done with oversharing. I really wanted and needed some privacy. I just got on Twitter a few months ago to get connected a little bit and it’s okay. I like taking a peek every once in awhile to see what’s going on. But, if I’m on it now, I already know it's on its way out.
I’ve always been pretty bad at self-promotion, but I know that’s always going to be a part of it, so I’m trying to find a way to have a toe in, but not get pulled all the way into the hellscape.
There’s a whole new generation or two in Philly who don’t know who you are and why they should pay attention. What should they know?
I’m the one who writes the quiet song on the album where the rocker pulls out the acoustic guitar for that one track. It’s the song about someone dying or how you’ve let someone down. Except it’s like that for every song.
Cinematic Turn is really gorgeous. I missed having new CGM in my earphones. Does it feel good to be “back”?
Aw, thanks! We have to stop meeting like this. I’m starting to feel like those kids in the British Up series where the filmmaker meets up with them every seven years to see what they are doing with their lives. Here’s Cynthia from Philly at 40. I had a great experience recording the songs and I’m happy to be back. I realized how much I missed talking to other musicians, people in the music scene, writing, practicing. It’s nice that I’m not hiding the fact that I’m a musician anymore. There are people who didn’t know me in that capacity at all, so it’s kind of a relief to be up front and open about it. I’ve been enjoying playing the guitar so much more now than I ever did before. It’s a pleasure. It’s so strange how that can happen after all those years.
Cynthia G. Mason plays World Café Live tonight. More info at worldcafelive.com.
By, Bryan Buttler
Hometown singer Cynthia G. Mason is taking to the World Cafe Live upstairs stage this Wednesday to celebrate her new record release. Mason has been called the "creepiest chamber pop songstress" by City Paper, and always creates music that serves as an ode to the city that she calls home. Wednesday, May 27th, 8:00pm, $10, World Cafe Live, 3025 Walnut Street.
May. 27 , Doors at 7:00 p.m., Show at 8:00 p.m. , World Café Live , $10
Once and future Philly fixture Cynthia G. Mason says she hated music for awhile — that's why it's been eight years since she gave us something new to listen to. Now she's back with Cinematic Turn, a stunning and understated EP that delivers classic CGM acoustic gorgeousness with a newfound urgency. Unhateable. Check back at citypaper.net for my interview with her.By Patrick Rapa
One More Trip: Cynthia G. Mason talks about coming back to the Philly music scene
May 19th, 2015 | 5:00PM | By Skye Leppo
Longtime Philly singer-songwriter Cynthia G. Mason is ready to emerge back onto the scene after an eight-year hiatus. Mason, who was previously a mainstay on the local acoustic circuit, took some time off after 2007′s Quitter’s Claim to focus on her family. But, as she tells it, she started to “ache” for the need to create music again, and luckily for us, she’s returned with Cinematic Turn, her first EP since retreating from the music world. During a recent phone call, Mason shared details about her transition back into music and what’s so special about this album.
The Key: What’s different about your contacts in the music scene these days? What’s it like coming back after such a hiatus – have your connections in the scene moved on too?
Cynthia Mason: You know, some of them have, but surprisingly a lot of the people I knew that used to play music are still around, some have changed. They’re doing more work in social media, promoting – it was kind of a very welcoming thing, “Yeah, what are you doing now?” Some people are not doing it anymore, but I’ve been lucky enough to get advice from people who have been doing this while I’ve been away.
TK: What brought on the break from music?
CM: I definitely needed a break and I wasn’t enjoying it anymore, and then I had my daughter. Having a child is very distracting and takes up a lot of your time, and a lot of parents who play music bring their joy to music, and I wanted that. I wanted to be able to do that. Children have such a natural rhythm and melody – it’s a beautiful thing to watch. But when I picked up the guitar, I was still kind of drawn to sad corners in life – the doubts, the disappointments, the grieving process – things we still face even when we have children.
TK: What in particular are you enjoying this time around, that you didn’t [enjoy] as much when you left?
CM: Playing guitar was always very comforting. It was kind of a physical thing… I started to ache for it, like the way runners need to run. It [playing] just felt really good. I also wasn’t listening to any music for a long time – I had like a musical blackout for a while, it was very strange because music’s been a part of my life since I was a child, and when I started to listen to music again it was very fun! Everything I started to hear sounded good, it almost didn’t matter what it was. My daughter was just so surprised, so seeing that look on her face was also kind of worth it.
So, it felt different and it felt the same. I think I’ve just been really enjoying the process of playing and writing a lot more, that was always kind of touch and go. I would write in little spurts. I challenged myself, about a year ago, to start writing. I decided I’d give myself a month, and it became more of a discipline for me, which hasn’t been the case before. If I wasn’t done [with one song] I’d just start a new one. I’ve been talking to the young folks, and a lot of people are putting out EPs and putting out little bits of music at a time, which is better. I’m going to slow down a little bit with the writing while trying to promote this, but I would love not to take as long of a break next time.
TK: What has your experience working with Miner Street Recordings been like?
CM: Oh, so great. I had done a little backup vocals there over the years, and met Brian and Amy, and they’re just so kind and talented and I felt so comfortable there. It kind of occurred to me, ‘Hey I never made an album with Brian,’ and really respected him over the years. Since I’ve been away for so long I really needed someone to be organized for me and guide the whole process. So I contacted him maybe at the end of 2013 or beginning of 2014, and was like “Remember me from ten years ago?” He and I met for coffee and he told me what I’d missed over the past 10 years. He’s in my age demographic, so he and I knew a lot of the same people. I started to feel really comfortable about the idea of recording.
So I wrote some songs, and he was kind enough to find some time for me in December. We got together and Amy engineered it … and Brian would put the call out to see some musicians who were around and some happened to be people I was friends with. He was very good at guiding, keeping everything on schedule, made sure I didn’t lose it and get too nervous to complete the project…and it was just very fun.
TK: What difference do you hear in the music you’re making now? Does this album reflect more of who you are now, or do you feel as though it’s really similar to your older material?
CM: I hadn’t listened to the things I’ve done before in so long, and it’s so surprising because in some ways I feel very different, but then in some ways I’m exactly the same – I’m worried about the same things, but I’m different and I’m grown. But yeah, I mean, there’s some very specific songs, either something that’s happened over the past few years, or a mish mosh of things I’ve been thinking about over time, or observations – something that happened and kind of reflecting on it – the way I write seems to be similar, but it was so great to have the instrumentation that I have on the record, too.
TK: What’s it like returning to a completely different Philadelphia, so to speak?
CM: I’m 40 now, some of my friends became very successful and started to tour a lot and had really great careers and others stopped playing completely to raise families, or play a little bit and then not play a little bit. I am in touch with some friends who still play a little bit, in terms of going out a lot and hearing a lot of new music. I’ve really become completely removed, and then I started to observe from afar [what Philly's like].
That’s been a joy to watch and hear about from people, how exciting Philadelphia is! You used to have to apologize for that [being from Philly], and people couldn’t wait to leave Philly. It was great to [go and] be around the twenty-somethings, and there was so much positivity and excitement about it. I [have] a maternal feeling about it- the pride, people want to be here, there’s a thriving creative scene, people are making all kinds of music in Philly. I did intentionally leave the grid for a while, but I understand it’s easier to connect if we use the Internet sometimes, and it’s been fun. It’s enjoyable.
I’m excited to play World Cafe Live for the record release; I have some nostalgia for places that aren’t open anymore. I’ve never played at Johnny Brenda’s – that was sort of the beginning of “Fishtown” [as it's recognized now for its place in the music scene] when I left, during my pregnancy, and every neighborhood has its own personality. I’m working on some of that now. It would be great to keep the momentum going and play a little bit more, and hear some of the music out there now. I’ve been a little more open; it feels different to me when I’m out and talking to people about music. I think there’s a different attitude and I like it – it’s really nice to be around that energy
TK: What’s your favorite track from the record, if you’re able to pick one?
CM: Hmm, not necessarily “favorite,” but the song I released first , “Tell-Tale Song,” became the song we were focusing on at the end of recording; it was sticking out. We’ve been getting some good [feedback] from it – there’s some songs you’re not sure about, and then it just becomes something else, [and you're] watching the songs grow. You’re like, “That necessarily wouldn’t have been one of my favorite songs,” but then it might have turned into something else. I’ve been working them out on my own a little bit since the recording, each one on its own, and they’re all kinds of fun to play for their own reasons. Some I would sort of strum with a pic, then strum with my fingers, and then put them in the left and the right, and they’ll turn out differently.
Cynthia Mason’s ‘Cinematic Turn’ will be released June 16. In the meantime, you can catch her record release show at World Cafe Live 8 p.m. May 27; details here.
Just got word that Larry D. Brown (aka Grey Reverend) is going to open the record release show on May 27th!
Grey Reverend is the solo project of songwriter Larry D. Brown. He began the project in 2005 while living in Philadelphia P.A, focusing on guitar and voice as a primary means of expression. Raised on a variety of musical genres, L.D. began playing the saxophone at age 9, but didn’t discover his main instrument, the guitar, until the age of 22. L.D’s first years in Philadelphia as a writer were spent performing and recording with other artists such as Steve Gunn, Jack Rose, Chris Powell, and Cynthia G. Mason. L.D was also learning from his mentor, the legendary guitarist Pat Martino. A sea change occurred in L.D’s approach to the guitar when he was diagnosed with a neurological disorder called Focal Dystonia, which limited the use of both of his hands and temporary sidelined his career. In 2006 L.D. moved to New York City, where he currently lives. Signed to Ninja Tune/Motion Audio Records in 2009, and with two LPs “Of The Days” 2011, and “A Hero’s Lie” 2013, Grey Reverend has toured the United States, U.K and Europe. His music has been showcased on MTV, ABC, NBC, HBO and has been featured on NPR’s All Things Considered. Besides currently working as a guitarist / vocalist with The Cinematic Orchestra, L.D. has collaborated with a wide range of artists around the world: Bonobo, Fink, Lou Rhodes of Lamb, members of Wilco, and Tortoise. In describing Grey Reverend’s sound, David Garland of WNYC radio said “As Grey Reverend, L.D. Brown makes compelling songs with reverence for the grey, undeﬁned areas of style, and without concern for standard musical, or social expectations.”
XPN Playlist for 03-27-2015:
|The War On Drugs - Baby Missiles - Slave Ambient Buy|
|Paul McCartney & Wings - Let Me Roll It - Band On The Run Buy|
|Hozier - Jackie and Wilson - Hozier Buy|
|John Butler Trio - Zebra - Sunrise Over Sea Buy|
|Cynthia G. Mason - A Telltale Song - Cinematic Turn Buy|
|Wilco - Can't Stand It - Summerteeth Buy|
|Mark Ronson - Daffodils - Uptown Special Buy|
|The Standells - Dirty Water - Nuggets: Classics From The Psychedelic 60's Buy|
|Beck - Nausea - The Information Buy|
|Citizen Cope - Healing Hands - The RainWater LP Buy|
|Mumford & Sons - Believe - Wilder Mind Buy|
|Mutlu - One Life with You - Dreambook Buy|
|Dixie Chicks - Landslide - Home Buy|
|Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear - Silent Movies - Skelton Crew Buy|
Listen to Cynthia G. Mason’s first new music in eight years, “Telltale Song”
March 23rd, 2015 | 2:56PM | By Julie Miller
Cynthia G. Mason |
Local singer-songwriter Cynthia G Mason will release a new EP called Cinematic Turn on June 16th with a record release show happening at World Cafe Live on May 27th. It’s her first solo effort in almost a decade, following up 2007′s Quitter’s Claim.
Mason has shared the EP’s first single “Telltale Song,” a track that shows a change in direction from the previously 90s singer-songwriter vibe. “Telltale Song” has an airy, lightly dramatic sound that is reminiscent of Mark Kozelek and Kathleen Edwards. It’s echoey and distant with subtle piano and guitar melodies sitting behind a pulsing, heartbeat-like anchor from drummer Chris Powell of Man Man.
Listen to “Telltale Song” below and pick up tickets for the release show here. Mason will also be part of a Philadelphia Music Co-op Showcase at Melodies Cafe in Ardmore on Saturday, March 28th. More information can be found here.
For Immediate Release: It's a Cinematic Turn