By Nathan Pavolko
MASZER is a new Seattle-based psych rock trio to hit the scene releasing their debut EP DREAMSZ on a cool groove embedded CD that allows you to play it like vinyl. The band brings some welcomed 90s rock flavor into psychedelic music, with prominent vocals and intricate rhythms. As much as I like washed out vocals in psychedelic rock, it’s incredibly refreshing to hear vocals with little to no effects added. Choosing the name, MASZER, has much more significance than just the name of the project; it is also a bold principle the band is devoted to. The name means ‘tithing’ in Hebrew, which by definition is taking one tenth of annual earnings to support the church and clergy. The group is committed to donating 10% of its profits to MusiCares, an organization dedicated specifically to independent musicians. So basically, music is their church and musicians are their clergy. I think this act also adds to the already present spirituality within their music.
The group is comprised of seasoned musicians such as guitarist Tomer-David Rapaport (aka STITCX) and drummer Joseph Braley, who relentlessly toured with their previous projects, Mother’s Anger and Reignwolf, opening for big name acts like Black Sabbath and The Pixies. After years of musical excitement, the two were inspired to create a new musical project with longtime friend and singer, Kate Blackstock. Rapaport, in preparation for this next musical adventure, spent six months in his studio writing over a hundred songs, so expect to see more from this band soon after this EP releases.
The opening track of DREAMSZ, “Pandora’s Box”, is dark and mysterious with a creeping sense of curiosity to venture into the unknown. With a heavy atmosphere created by the powerful bass and clashing guitar, Blackstock’s vocals calmly swoon “I will come and go // And you can’t say no.” Her vocals are reminiscent of The Pixies’ Kim Deal with the way she accents certain words; it’s loose flowing and breath-taking. The single of the EP “Fata Mirage” shows the band’s versatility as players, with the catchy and almost dancable Middle Eastern style guitar and fat low-end of the bass. What I was most impressed with on this track was Braley’s drumming: all of his accents and little fills really amped up the track in a unique way. I’d say this is probably their most spiritual sounding track on the EP, with its immense energy.
The band has many strengths, like their ability to create a beautiful atmosphere and groove while delivering subtle melodies hidden within. However, sometimes relying on that atmosphere too much can hinder a song. I feel this way with their track “California Sees You;” maybe if it were shorter or had more changes it would’ve been more musically interesting to me. What did peak my interest for it was the name and what it could imply, especially when thinking of existentialism.
The next two tracks are my favorite of the EP: I really enjoy the drowsy vibe of “Passers By” and the high-stakes chaotic energy of “Roar”. In “Passers By,” a simple groove is played out by the bass and drums while the guitar chimes and strums in a melancholic singer-songwriter kind of way. The vocals are also doubled, softly singing, “Would you feel a little better if I stay here with you tonight // Would you feel a little better if I let you look through my eyes.” Even though this song has an obvious sadness to it, it also has a great sense of optimism and hopefulness, projecting really good vibes the whole way through. The addition of the piano at the end is also a nice touch, adding a beautiful melody for the last chorus. The song “Roar” completely took me by surprise because of all the previous songs before it. I did not expect a raging distorted guitar sliding about as a syncopated rhythms blast forward. It’s a very loose and raw song with strange time signatures and tempo shifts that feels a little bit math rock and a little bit metal. I was impressed when I heard it and realized the wide range of music that was touched in this EP.
The 90s flavor that I had mentioned earlier really shines in the production. It has a 90s rock quality within the recordings that could only be captured in a setting like Seattle. DREAMZ was recorded and produced by Rapaport himself, which is incredible. I’m always in support of DIY projects. Overall, I really enjoyed this EP pretty much the whole way through. MASZER is a great band with a lot of talent and experimentation ahead of them. The EP covered such a broad scope of music. I’d keep a close eye on this growing psychedelic rock trio.