Benjamin Mason : Oi! Rapscallion!25.05.2018
I have a battered vinyl copy of Robert Fripp's 1979 solo debut, Exposure, bought a few years after its release. It is the cover that is worn. The record itself is pristine, like a museum artifact kept in a glass case. The care is warranted as Exposure is the album that, for me, opened the door (along with PiL's first LP) from a small town soundtracked by the dull, constricting thump of heavy metal to the outside world.
Exposure is experimental but includes in the sequence several almost-pop songs - the foremost of which is a brilliantly framed version of Peter Gabriel's Here Comes the Flood. In totality Exposure is a work of a rare creativity; although Ben Mason mostly uses an acoustic guitar where Fripp might use an electric, there is something of the spirit of Exposure in his latest release, Oi! Rapscallion!
Another intriguing title - following on from Mason's recent re-release of Dogs N Yaaa; 'rapscallion' is a word usually used to describe someone who is playfully mischievous. Or a scoundrel. The former fits - with its eclecticism and exploratory tone, Oi! Rapscallion! sounds like it has a fervent musical imagination behind it, and one that is also playful to the point of devilment.
The first composition is enough to demonstrate this. With an air of menace reminiscent of Mogwai's atmospheric soundtrack for the French art-zombie series, Les Revenants, the instrumental Final War of the Inevitable Barbie manages to be dark and accomplished, complete with a crescendo of heavy King Crimson riffing, whilst its title (with humour) suggests a surreal graphic novel or 50s B Movie.
Ten more tracks contribute to a total of thirty five mesmeric minutes. Some of the most successful fuse Mason's deft acoustic work with his love of electronica, a potent concatenation demonstrated in the twirling layers of 1000 Good Mornings. Then there are several pure folk finger-picked pieces - with Oh Lovely and Delicious Winter Pickings a standout - which offer sheer enchantment, as does the recorded ambient sound and xylophone of Aohtkb Mache.
When you initially listen to the album there are one or two moments of doubt. The synthesised vocal of Meow may grate on first hearing, but will eventually have you leaping around the room like one of the dancing cats the internet is full of, or, if not, then at least you will become happy to entertain its insistent energy for a minute and a half.
It is the lack of genre boundaries, or limits to the music, that justifies the comparison between Oi! Rapscallion! and Exposure, but the track My Bones does seem influenced by early Fripp solo experimentation in its opening sounds. In the final analysis both albums offer as much fascination as melody; that is their shared source of magic.
Oi! Rapscallion! finishes with the simplicity of the plain and delightful acoustic marvel, Magnet. A fitting close to an utterly engaging set of recordings.
Oi! Rapscallion! is available from benjaminmason.bandcamp.com
BENJAMIN MASON I Magnet