Maston: Awake In The Dark

Maston’s Tulips is a love letter to primitive-cool European film scores

L.A.-based producer/composer Frank Maston had always wanted to live abroad. When he was given the opportunity to sit in on an extended tour with Dutch indie-psychedelic-pop star Jacco Gardner, Maston—who releases his music under his surname—didn’t think twice. And it was there, during that time adrift in the Continent, that Maston’s glorious, film-geeky, hopelessly romantic Tulips was born.

“I wrote it over here, though,” says Maston, whose second album is released on the artist’s Phonoscope label. “I was trying to get at a kind of sound—it’s difficult to describe. I didn’t want it to be rooted there, but I also didn’t want it to sound like I was trying to recapture a sound that I wasn’t connected to. I ended up going (as a reference point) to a kind of music I’ve always loved: those great soundtracks to 1960s and 1970s European films.”

Like the best of those film scores—and we’re talking here not just the work of the venerable Ennio Morricone but also grittier, lesser-known composers like Bruno Nicolai and Franco Micalizzi—Tulips contains a series of short theme-and-variation grooves, heavy on chorus-washed keys, gutsy/cool guitar lines, somber flutes and minor-key bridges. As a composer and producer, Maston has done his homework—Tulips spins like a lost soundtrack circa 1969 and would be difficult to tell apart from its source material in a blindfold test—but the album works as a collection of short original compositions in a “neo-classical-trash” style. Barely 24 minutes total, Maston’s second record knows what it’s about, and not only doesn’t overstay its welcome but it leaves you wanting more.

“Oh, that’s so nice, man,” he says. “That’s such a compliment.” Well, if you’ve got a head for this sort of sound, so is Tulips.

Eric Waggoner