Mas Ysa is the moniker of musician Thomas Arsenault, a man who tempers live electronics with songwriting to create a sound and structure at the conventions of Pop, Folk, Techno, Electronic & Experimental music. Born in Montreal, Arsenault spent his formative years spent in Sao Paulo, drawn to both traditional Brazilian music and the hard-techno popular at the time. Mas Ysa found himself on a diverse range of dancefloors at a young age. Mas Ysa went on to develop his musical self at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. Read More...
Mas Ysa is the moniker of musician Thomas Arsenault, a man who tempers live electronics with songwriting to create a sound and structure at the conventions of Pop, Folk, Techno, Electronic & Experimental music.
Born in Montreal, Arsenault spent his formative years spent in Sao Paulo, drawn to both traditional Brazilian music and the hard-techno popular at the time. Mas Ysa found himself on a diverse range of dancefloors at a young age. Mas Ysa went on to develop his musical self at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. There he became a member of the Shinkoyo arts collective giving him a certain path to New York City.
After his time at the Conservatory, he took a pit stop in San Francisco to assist his mentor, cult artist, Warner Jepson. Eventually, Mas Ysa landed in Brooklyn, occupying a sprawling loft complex connected to the underground venues that populated Kent Avenue. There, he built a studio that yielded records by the likes of Cass McCombs and Laurel Halo, the studio never had an official name and was generously available to friends and family while Mas Ysa used it most nights to write and experiment on his personal work. In this same period Mas Ysa explored another side of composition; collaborating with Rashaun Mitchell and Silas Reiner, then principal dancers with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company.
In late 2012, Mas Ysa assembled a pile of mostly antiquated synths and drum machines, strung together in a mess of wires and from this Mas Ysa’s first live rig was frankensteined into existence. He began playing live shows around NYC, and within a few months Mas Ysa had been tapped to tour with art-rock icons Deerhunter and was soon opening shows for the likes of Purity Ring to RZA.
2014 began with the release of Mas Ysa’s debut EP Worth: a mix of instrumentals, ballads and the two singles Why & Shame, both of which received the distinction of Best New Track from Pitchfork who went on to say Mas Ysa’s “music moves seamlessly between 80s synth-pop, contemporary techno, and indie electronic styles…he precisely executes his musical ideas and leaves the bloodletting to his lyrics, faintly petulant spasms of romantic denunciation and guilt.”
On the heels of Worth’s release, Mas Ysa appeared at Primavera Sound, Pitchfork Music Festival, Fun Fun Fun Fest, North by Northeast, SXSW, Northside, Hopscotch and the Splendor In The Grass festival in Australia. This was all in addition to being the subject of a Pitchfork documentary, touring North America with Delorean, Hundred Waters and EMA and playing shows with the likes of Future Islands and Atlas Sound.
After an intense year touring, Mas Ysa returned to his upstate NY home in the town of Lake Hill where he’d recently relocated to complete the work of the first Mas Ysa full length. “Moving upstate and recording there, and not in Brooklyn, was less isolating than I’d expected,” he recalls. “I felt much more isolated in the city, in a dark corner of a studio, whereas in Lake Hill, I felt like my music was going out the windows and into the woods.” In 2015, tracking in his home with assistance from Steve Rivette (Liars, Black Dice) and mixed by Damian Taylor (The Prodigy, Arcade Fire, Bjork) in Montreal, QC: Mas Ysa’s debut LP Seraph came out to critical praise and featured an appearance from Nicole Migas of Hundred Waters while yielding the singles Look Up, Margarita, Arrows and Gun.
Stereogum described the album as “a soundtrack that alternates evenly between whispering dream pop and pounding techno. It’s a magical mixture that fits its master wonderfully” while The Fader speaking to the lyrical content suggested “Even when he’s singing about heartbreak, it sounds like joy.”
Returning to the road, Mas Ysa completed two full tours of North America in 2015: One with UK Young Fathers and another with Tanlines before finishing the year in his native Canada, writing in between live appearances while collaborating with Julianna Barwick on her new record Will. Whom he will be touring with in May and June.
After a brief return to NYC for an appearance at a Bernie Sanders fundraiser, Mas Ysa moved out of his home in Upstate NY and save for his live rig in 6 chunky pelican cases, into a storage space. Bouncing from Toronto to Montreal to Brooklyn to Calgary to Los Angeles he eventually retreated to Uruguay to work on a slate of new songs and a new collaboration with the choreographer Rashaun Mitchell.
- Mas Ysa's new song "Look Up" featured on Noisey
- Mas Ysa travels with Pitchfork NOS for his performance at Primavera Sound Festival - Porto
- Mas Ysa interviewed by Pitchfork as part of their "Rising" artist series
- Mas Ysa's "Shame" called "heart-rending" and "emotionally raw" by Pigeons & Planes
- Mas Ysa garners "Best New Track" from Pitchfork for "Shame"
- Mas Ysa interviewed for the Intel and Vice 'Creators Project'
- Mas Ysa's "Why" is Pitchfork's Best New Track