Late last year, Brooklyn-based multi-media multi-tasker and studio wizard Thomas Arsenault offered up the first fruits of his new solo project Mas Ysa, a thrilling six-minute transmission called “Why?” that wrapped scrappy but impassioned vocals in a blanket of piano-led electro pop before piling on a barrage of pounding tribal techno beats, whipping up a twister of anxiety and longing and eventual blissful release. Over the course of nine tracks – four fully-fledged songs (including the aforementioned “Why?”) buffered by five instrumental miniatures – the Worth EP, out February 4 via Downtown, reveals the Canadian expatriate as an artist capable of traversing the entire spectrum of human emotion as easily as the recording studio. Slow-burner “Life Way Up From” compliments lyrical scenes of rustic contentment with icy synths that thaw and blossom like time-lapse footage of a flower opening up in the morning sun; “Shame”, meanwhile, one-ups “Why?” by applying EBM-inspired production – pitch-shifted cymbals, a shuddering staccato bass line – to a massive, defiant show-stopping vocal, whilst elegiac closer “Years” exercises enough restraint to stop it slipping off the tightrope that separates the moving from the mawkish. Like many ‘80s babies (I’m guessing here), Arsenault seems intent on writing songs to soundtrack the heart-wrenching climax of his own imaginary John Hughes film, but few do it as well as this and the subtle touches to be found in the interludes (woodwinds, classical guitar, albeit likely synthesized) suggest that his artistic ambitions may soon outgrow his current one-man-and-a-laptop set-up; a mouth-watering prospect, certainly, but until the main course arrives this EP is an appetiser worth savouring.
Worth is out February 4 via Downtown, and is streaming now via Pitchfork Advance; check out the video for “Why?” below.