XLR8R Feature: Sweet Vibrations Blossom From Zak Mastoon’s Midwest Basement
Zachary Mastoon is Caural. He lives in Evanston, Illinois, next door to Chicago. Close your eyes and let’s visit.
Wake up. You are tumbling through a tunnel of grass. The walls swirl with glistening green. Cymbals guide the way. Glowing melodies shimmer like scales from magnetic vibraphones. Hovering jellyfish speak in tongues as bells and handclaps snap thunder from jukeboxes stocked with electro hip-hop. Every part of your being vibrates with resonance. Rhythm and texture flow endlessly. This is Caural’s world.
Caural was born in a basement. Before spending a decade on earth, Zachary Mastoon and pal Stuart Bogie recorded cellar jam sessions on Casio keyboard, electric guitar, and cheapo microphone. The two lads committed Sun Ra-soaked hip-hop for seven-year-olds to tape. Stuart sprouted into a saxophonist for Afro-Beat all-stars Antibalas, while Mastoon lassoed youthful enthusiasm into the refined spontaneity of Caural. His debut, Initial Experiments in 3-D, was a dive into what Mastoon calls “dimensional music.” “(I was) composing from memories to create expressions of space, time, and warmth,” he says. “It was an album for myself.”
Caural’s music blossoms from borrowed notes. “I go to the library, check out ten CDs at a time and pour through them, finding beautiful moments that can be used in new ways,” explains Mastoon. From Javanese gamelan to fusion jazz, he excavates exceptional flashes from forgotten wax and ties them into new forms. “I make imagined albums,” he says. “I hear sounds I like and say, ‘What if this happened next?’ It’s a remix of what’s in my head.”
Mastoon is a natural explorer, unfolding inspiration into action. His loops around the world make Marco Polo blush. Traveling has influenced Caural’s work more than anything else. “You get bug eyes in the back of your head,” he claims. “You start to see things differently.” This nature extends into the studio, where Mastoon freaks for fun- plucking mbira through a wah, recording bricks, and using water bottles as shakers.
“Everything has been done but as long as you act from your origin and dig it, it’s cool,” explains Mastoon of his mantra. “I strive to be true to myself and make music from my heart and experience.”