Gnani is the new EP by Sis, moniker of single/multi-instrumentalist Jenny Gillespie Mason and it’s a beautiful swim in a warm sea of the mind. Recorded in Mason’s home studio in California she has set out to try and create a set of songs that have a healing effect, especially from the “the wreckage of the collective years 2020-21” and join the dots of her life as “mother, wife, artist, and individual” and the EP’s title comes from guru Nisargadatta Maharaj and —”The gnani (the one who knows) does not die, because he was never born“.
There is a timeless quality to the music, helped by the warmth of modern production playing in a sunny yard with an array of vintage instruments such as clavinet, Phillicordia, Rhodes, B3 Hammond organ, Farfisa, and ARP Odyssey. In part jazz-influenced and ambient but with a splash of bossa-beat and a watercolour wash of trip-hop. It opens with ‘Double Rapture’ which is subtle and full of candyfloss clouds and dreamlike vocals lapping against its shore. ‘Wooie’ is a humid summer’s night of cicadas and blown out drums with a glorious tune and ‘Flower In Space’ is the track I keep returning to again and again and its both soporific and stimulating with a repeated piano phrase that feels like being given a sweet every time it appears. While ‘Light Is There’ winds like a lazy river, ‘Embodiment’ judders with synthesisers, crinkling and ticking along with arpeggios, bossa nova grooves and late-night jazz club vibes. The EP closes with ‘Gazelle Rites’ which twinkles like a crystal chandelier gently swaying from the woozy synthesisers playing 5ths and undulating percussion.
The overall effect of Gnani is that of a sumptuous collage of sounds delicately constructed in a dream world. As a whole the tracks are hypnotic and luxurious but within this soft rippling landscape are a multitude of perfectly placed elements swirl around as if Mason is tuning in a radio broadcasting from deep within our unconscious minds and giving us as much Yin as Yang in order to keep a perfect balance throughout. I feel sure I will keep coming back to Gnani again and again in the coming months so I can keep swimming in its zen currents.
Review by Paul F Cook