Mason Summit — ‘Negative Space’

Mason Summit — Negative Space
(Released on digital streaming platforms)

 Los Angeles-based indie folk singer-songwriter Mason Summit is the master of musicalizing the interior landscape. His new album, Negative Space, surveys the emotional peaks and valleys, paying special attention to the challenging overlaps and complexities along the way. The song collection is a sober assessment of a young man’s attempts to make sense of a sometimes nonsensical world. Negative Space is a musical cartography of a heart, determined to lead the way.

Mason Summit doesn’t just write about himself on the surface — his relationships, his thoughts, his anxieties. Instead, his songs invite us inward, to a more expansive (and more interesting) place. It is the space in and around himself that presents interesting shapes worth exploring. By placing the focus on that which he observes, Summit more precisely defines and redefines himself. My words here probably read more like a psychological projection than a music review. Forgive me, for I’ve never met the man, but through his songs, I feel as if I have. That is an entirely different and unique talent than merely creating pleasing content, and Mason Summit achieves it while still writing musically gratifying material. [For the record, I have no concern for Summit’s mental well-being; clearly, anyone who is as honest and self-aware as this is on the right track.]

But let’s get back to the music. While initially it is the sohisticated sounds — an inviting vibration of acoustic guitar strumming, reliable drum beats, carefully placed cymbals, intriguing bass lines, sturdy piano chords, and wavy synths — that please, it is the marriage of the insightful lyric and those chosen notes that really define Summit’s gift. Give “Asterisk” a spin and see what he accomplishes with the seemingly simple choices. By mastering the art of editing his material, Summit reaches a place of purity. Or, listen to “Point Dööm” and tell me you don’t suddenly feel like you are ready to star in a new wave French cinema masterpiece? Mason Summit’s music has the keen ability to transport the heart and  the mind. By the time you reach the concluding track, “‘Round January,” you will be amazed at the touching tune’s healing effect. 

Negative Space is Mason Summit’s fifth album. While the early releases (especially 2018’s Summer Cold, reviewed here) were full of promise, this album is a definite promise fulfilled. Is there anyone writing today who has such an obvious mastery of the power inherent in a series of chord progressions? Is there anyone else currently writing raw and poignant lyrics with such clarity? Summit has always had a profoundly good ear for musical storytelling, but on this album he goes even further in all of the right directions. I cannot wait to hear what he is probably already working on inside his innovative and original mind.

Mason Summit isn’t just a talented young singer-songwriter worth noting. He is an artist who creates works that demand consideration from anyone interested in the here and now. Pay attention to him, for he is very much an artist of importance in the future.

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