Happy Place – Northfield (2016)

feature photo by Bryan Sargent

Coming on the heels of his major post-classical/avant-jazz/experimental rock masterwork Beams of the Huge Night, Will Mason’s Northfield shares an adventurous spirit through unorthodox composition approach but perhaps little else. As the debut album from Happy Place, another band led by this outward-minded drummer, composer and bandleader, Northfield is an outlet for the music of Mason that’s more frayed, directly emotional and diffused.

This band’s makeup is key to makeup of the music itself: Mason is joined by another drummer Austin Vaughn and two guitarists, Will Chapin and Andrew Smiley carried over from the Will Mason Ensemble. Its jagged sonority with biting guitars and thunderous thumps (with little in-between) brings to mind Captain Beefheart’s Magic Band, the Zs, and Smiley’s old band, Little Women. Imagine Deerhoof with no vocals and an extra pair of hands on the drums.

The eight tracks were all conceived by Mason during long periods of sleep deprivation, all running together like eight movements of a suite. A new, booming beat usually (but not always) announces a new movement, and the guitars engage in interlocking patterns, staying put on a chord for extended periods or move from one repeating figure to another. The simplicity of the melodies leave room for the complexities of the relationship between the dual guitars and the dual drums, and the unfiltered passion that comes from it.

That comes through even on the floating, ending section “as deer,” a barren, barely audible din, where distant sounding echoes of guitars form an alloy with whisked cymbals.

This music from Happy Place wouldn’t readily be described as cheerful, but it’s intended as a cathartic release, and that’s just what it achieves. And happiness usually follows those kinds of events, doesn’t it?

Northfield is now available on Bandcamp courtesy of Exit Stencil Recordings.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron