As much of a pop cultural center as Los Angeles may be, its creative artists feel far from the pressure exerted by the East Coast cultural establishment to be smarter, cleverer and hipper, and consequently they do what they want. Or that's my explanation for the unashamedly pretty music on Jeff Gauthier's Mask. The beuaty is often stark, as on Nels Cline's "The Fools" or on the exquisite stillness of the closing "forgiveness" written by Goatette drummer Alex Cline, Sometimes it's bright and Methenian, like the big sky tribute to the late bassist Eric von Essen, Ephemer - for Eric." This is a lovely music presented without an agenda or an axe to grind, just for our enjoyment. Is the music on this CD ultimately as avant garde as some New York stuff? Well, if it is, it's not as self-consciously so. But it's no less fearless. It takes guts to play this pretty. Playing pretty - now that's an avant-garde notion.