Anxiety is inescapable. We live in a time when it is so deeply woven into the fabric of our society, so crucial to the operation of our grand social-industrial machine, that even the concept of peace or contentment can only ever exist as a corollary to the queasy, constant sense of unrest we all feel today. Uncertainty is the new certainty, and as welcoming and exciting as this new world we face might be, our acceptance of a certain level of unnerve can be elusive, even frightening in how it seeps into the cracks of our personal quests for betterment and self-help. True calm is an impossibility, and yet we are always sedated to some extent, beholden to our warped reality, unsure where the serenity ends and the horror begins.
In Passing isn’t so much an antidote for this condition as a companion that understands the symptoms deeply, offering empathy and comfort against the affliction. On their sophomore outing, Portland duo Location Services find solace in the creaking, unnatural strokes of the electro-acoustic guitar, a simmering distance conveyed through sliding, fretless bass strings. From start to finish, In Passing doesn’t disturb its gentle tranquility even once, and yet the undercurrent of illusion runs deep within its veins, informing its relaxed demeanor without undoing it. Location Services embody the anonymous, creating an impression of the sort of music found in elevators and fancy restaurants that glides to the back of our attention, regardless of the fact that there is a person on the other end of this signal, someone of dedication and craft giving themselves entirely to the experience of not experiencing their music. Although it’s certainly not without its humor, there is a real darkness to In Passing, a commitment to silence and reserve that fills whatever space it’s in, smoothing out tension at the same time that it indulges in its presence.
Sometimes, In Passing decides to teleport to another place. Halfway through “Florid Coast,” we’re suddenly dropped into a keyboard waltz recalling the forests of Chrono Trigger, caught between time in a curious unease. The lengthy, resplendent “Per Diem” surrounds us with a sea of emptiness, the flute MIDIs swaying in place like abandoned buoys tethered to an unknown deep. More often than not, though, In Passing slides right into the here and now, embodying our world in all of its brightness and façade. It is slightness manifested, the sort of sounds that slip into the aether as effortlessly as a balloon disappearing into the sky, and yet once In Passing has receded, it leaves a pregnant absence in its wake. What we are left with is the world and a faint smile from Location Services reminding us that we are not alone.