The Mastelotto / Reuter project “Face,” originally released on CD in 2017, has been remixed in multiple surround formats by Jan Printz for this 2021 release on both Blu-ray and digital download. Consisting of just one 35 minute piece, drummer and percussionist Pat Mastelotto and touch guitarist Markus Reuter present a musical journey that continuously transforms as they cross peaks with panoramic views down into the valley with great detail. These contrasting scenes engage and inspire listeners to paint an auralscape in their mind that is vast and imaginative.
The album boasts sixteen guest contributors, including Steven Wilson, David Lynch, collaborator Chrysta Bell, and The Rembrandts’ Danny Wilde. Nine years in the making, including spanning over four years initially recording the tracks, surround enthusiasts still waited a few more to be immersed with this complex and ever changing piece of music that draws from classical through electronic. One can hear echoes of Mike Oldfield’s melodicism, complexities of King Crimson, along with some Floydian styled solos, all amounting to a deep dive into the progressive rock world.
The 2021 surround edition of Faces is available in multiple versions, all at 48kHz / 24-bit, including 4.0 quad, 5.1 surround, and 7.1 surround. Jan Printz the remix engineer and owner of Surround Music One, has taken the album to a new level by creating an additional melody and rhythm mix, each available in their respective surround versions. The 35 minute piece move seamlessly from section to section giving the listener many new flavors to bite into along the way.
Printz seemingly has taken a quadraphonic approach to the mix, although he started with the 5.1 mix first, completely immersing the listener by surrounding them with various instrumentation including the entire drum kit. As one dives in during the opening segment, drums bristles all around the space with Mastelotto’s trademark muscularity while the base anchors itself in the front. With over 180+ audio tracks containing some 500 unique overdubs of written or improvised parts from guest musicians, keyboards have been placed in the front and rear speakers as they play their counterpart melodies. Guitars emanate from different places including the really distinct crystal clear single chord strum from the back right channel.
On the 5.1 surround version Printz makes light use of the center channel, primarily focusing on placement of parts in the four main channels surrounding the sweet spot. Bass is riveting, filling the room nicely alongside distinct and snappy drums yielding a fullness to the snare and a roundness which has been given to the tom-toms. Guitars and keyboards are naturally Zeny and the entire mix is truly transparent and open.
There are moments when the depth of the mix steps outward while dynamics aid in creating an impactful piece that drives the experience to new heights. With percussive beats, glistening vocals that harmonize in the rears, fuzzy brilliant guitar work which penetrates from all corners, and jabs of brass darting in and out, these parts all intermingle as the piece moves from section to section. During one particular elevated segment with arpeggiated keyboards, one will hear a mumbling voice that reminds me of the adult speak found on the Charlie Brown cartoons poking up from the front speakers, then onward to the back channels, creating a delightful walk across the room. It is subtle nuances like this that have been added into the surround mix that make the 5.1 mix such a creative and artistic endeavor.
Venturing further into the track listeners may have noticed how melodies will percolate up from behind the listener, placing the focus into the rears instead of in the front channels. Once again Printz’s creative use of the surroundscape makes Faces a most interesting and welcome surround mix. In the liner notes Reuter comments,“FACE is very much a special piece in the body of my work. I don’t think there’s anything else quite like this out there today.” I agree, and the combination of the encompassing mix and musical journey makes Faces that much more compelling.
While instrumentation does not always stay in the same location throughout the various segments, there is nothing jarring or obvious about the transitions and the movement of these parts. The obvious exception is of course the single elements that move around the room creating a special dimensional effect.
Printz has matched the quad and surround with great expertise, yet with a few subtle changes. Since the center channel heard on the 5.1 mix needs to be integrated with the front channels, I felt there was a slight push in the volume on the rears that likely provided a more balanced sound. Beyond that, the mix follows the path of the surround version and is perfect for quad listeners. Meanwhile the 7.1 experience places the parts across more channels, widening the auralscape and opening up the mix with greater space. I admit I have become more of a fan of quad, as I prefer the melding of parts, yet it is fantastic that Printz has provided a choice for surround enthusiasts. Each of these versions are available on the Blu-ray as well as the digital download.
Despite its relative brevity, this diverse and exotic piece has now been extended by two alternate mixes, multiplying the impact of Faces. The alternate breakdown mixes first include a rhythm mix featuring only the drum kit. Printz has spread Mastelotto’s drums around the surroundscape, with the kick pumping from all channels while the snare snaps upfront and the tom-toms spread around the room. As also heard in the main mix, there are some fun tricks that are retained including the triangle that moves slowly around the perimeter clocking out the time. Focusing solely on the drums, one really gets to hear the transparency and openness of the recording and mix. There is other fun stuff for listeners to discover including little effects popping up in all channels and the booming tom-toms hitting from the rear.
Not to be outdone, Prinz conversely created a second alternate mix focused on the instrumentation only. Known as the “Melody” mix, the drums have been removed leaving all the instrumentation. From a musical perspective one has an entirely new album to listen to, as it absolutely provides a unique texture when compared to the main album mix. Most interestingly, the classical roots come alive on this version, and while I may miss the drums, I find this mix to be equally engaging. Printz maintains the surroundscape, continuing to immerse the listener as the peace travels through its various segments.
Faces is another fantastic mix to add into any surround enthusiast’s collection. With the choice of a Blu-ray or digital download, and multiple surround versions, there is simply no excuse for any collector to skip this one. Furthermore, for fans of progressive, fusion, ambient and electronic, it is all covered here. Of course, any fan of Pat Mastelotto or Markus Reuter will want to kick back and become immersed with any one or all of these surround versions.
Released in surround sound on January 29, 2021, originally released in stereo on March 24, 2017.
Blu-ray or Digital Download in all of these choices, 4.0 quad, 5.1 surround, and 7.1 surround, each at 48kHz / 24-bit . Also available on CD.