(Minty Fresh, 2002)

Mastretta, the self-titled U.S. debut by Spaniard Nacho Mastretta, is a compilation of his first four releases, and for those unfamiliar with his music, a cause for celebration. Bossa nova rhythms, vibrato drenched guitars, wistful clarinet and even theremin intertwine for a laidback, engaging set of neo-lounge music.

Far from being retro, Mastretta takes the genre of lounge music and makes it contemporary without any tongue-in-cheek self-consciousness. In addition to handling all writing and production duties, Mastretta plays keys and horns on the recording. Clever arrangements keep the instrumental selections interesting as do the juxtapositions of seemingly incongruous styles that Mastretta manages to work into every track.

There are so many good cuts on the CD it's hard to pick any particular standout. Some of the tracks are culled from films that Mastretta has scored, and the impressionistic qualities of the music allude to his cinematic influences. Echoes of Nino Rota and Ennio Morricone surface in the endearingly twisted circus sideshow melodies and spaghetti Western guitar lines. The four vocal numbers on the CD are a nice change of pace from the otherwise instrumental set. "Luna de Miel" sounds like a cabaret scene from a '60s science-fiction movie, while "Andrea Doria" features Ana Belen's haunting vocals over a slinky noir guitar line. The only questionable inclusion on the CD is "Trailer," a brash horn-driven number that disrupts the laidback vibe permeating the rest of the compilation.

A unique pastiche of styles that blends elements of jazz, lounge, film noir and even klezmer without ever sounding contrived, this recording will go over big with fans of downtempo electronica as well as retro-swing bands like Paris Combo and Pink Martini. Treading the fine line between sophisticated and whimsical with aplomb, Mastretta serves up the ultimate musical cocktail.

- Rambles
written by Rob Stephenson
published 21 December 2002

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