Greg Foat & Gigi Masin




Soothing, pretty, becalmed, mellow: such descriptions are usually applied for music that balances awkwardly between a noble intention to dish out nourishing salve for frayed nerves and an actual outcome consisting of blandly beige musical wallpaper. 

Then there’s Dolphin: the album’s eight unhurriedly evolving instrumental compositions are certainly chilled out to the maximum but it’s hard to image a more unabashedly and uncomplicatedly beautiful recording emerging this year. 

The first but hopefully far from last collaboration between British pianist/composer Greg Foat and Italian ambient maestro Gigi Masin is characterised by luxurious smoothness and caressing silky textures: imagine an aural equivalent of basking in a particularly dazzling Mediterranean sunset with a cocktail in hand, and you’re not far off the generally deluxe vibe. However, the duo’s inspired mash-up of cool jazz, stargazing kosmische glide, gentle ambient contemplation and synth-binging slow-burn soundtrack swoon is far more compelling than the inoffensive politeness suggested by such descriptions.

Powered by seriously potent melodic hooks and the unobtrusively insistent, laidback flow of a killer rhythm section (Tom Herbert on bass and Moses Boyd on drums), Dolphin balances between two house styles. There are weightless, positively glistening ambient excursions into the prettiest far-away corners of the cosmos (opener ‘Lee’) and gently throbbing reboots of the avid keyboard worship of 1970s style funky jazz/jazzy funk (‘London Nights’). Tracks frequently stretch out beatifically over seven and eight minutes, yet they always seem to come to a halt far too soon. 

The combination of the vibrant interplay of a live trio of Foat, Herbert and Boyd and Masin’s digitally created, melancholy contributions reaches an alchemic culmination in the impossibly lovely ‘Love Theme’ (enriched by a flute motif that is simultaneously unfathomably sad and softly anthemic) and the seriously irresistible blend of digitally enhanced cooing and swinging vibraphone on the gently swaying ‘Viento Calido’. Dolphins, then, is a rare beast: an album that succeeds as aesthetically pleasing background music but grows in stature and hypnotic pull when given the listener’s full, undivided attention.