[20 March 2014]
PopMatters Associate Music Editor
New York State’s Mas Ysa (pronounced MAAS ee-sa), real name Thomas Arsenault, is a worldly traveler. He was born in Montreal, Canada, went to school in Brazil, studied poetry in British Columbia, attended Oberlin College, and lived in San Francisco before being kicked out of a loft in New York City and moving upstate. The fact that Arsenault has moved around so much has informed his debut EP, Worth, as it embodies a wide range of electronic styles from bangers to ballads, along with interstitial tracks. At 27 minutes and nine songs in length, you could also debate whether or not it’s a bonafide EP instead of a short album, but let’s not split hairs. Worth shows that there’s a lot of worth in the electronic music of Mas Ysa, even if it doesn’t always quite cohere in the way that you’d expect someone who has made friends with Teengirl Fantasy and Blondes might.
Part of the problem with Worth is that it has one or two too many in-between connective tracks that go nowhere, such as opener “Vanya” and “Ktidal”. But when Worth hits, it really hits, if not right between the eyes. Slithery lead single “Why” shapeshifts multiple times over its more than six-minute duration, and is a large reason to purchase the EP—it’s an awesome track that will undoubtedly get heads nodding, if not nodding off to sleep—in a good way—during its more rhythmless sections. It’s amazing. And closer “Years” is icy, glacial, and a worthy album closer. All in all, Worth, at its best, recalls the finest electronica of the 1980s, offering a great musical throwback, which is fitting as this artist uses cheap and vintage equipment during his live shows. Though not perfect, there’s much grist for the mill here, and it’ll be interesting to see what kind of direction Mas Ysa goes in when it comes to delivering a full-length album, which is something that appears to be in the works for later on this year. I’ll be looking forward to that, and Worth should earn the artist plenty of new fans.