It Happens Outside
Styles: plastic replicants, fluxing ambience, relational aesthetics
Others: Julia Holter, Oneohtrix Point Never
Brandon Locher’s project The Meets is a strange and multifarious act. Its definition is as blurred as It Happens Outside itself. Being both an ensemble (though a largely unconscious and incidental one) and a solo act, orchestrating the very act of orchestrating, The idea of a musician no longer being a musician, a composer stepping farther away from notation, is an issue of the modern era, an issue of definition. Locher assumes multiple roles as much as he attempts to sit outside of it; thus, the title It Happens Outside: Locher intends to investigate the interiors of the banal phenomena while not participating directly with it.
The opening moments of the album is all broad and ambient receding tones, needling static and other electronic blips producing an Eastern-leaning tonal piece. This is less a move of significance and more the one that was simply captured. These moments pervade It Happens Outside, rolling out these little niches in time, producing places and then taking them back, tumbling them around before they drift away. One listens to this album at once wide-eyed and inattentively: the work is not for you to hear, but for you to feel your way through, like when one casts out an awkwardly flailing arm in the dark. The pieces move by quickly, as should the listener.
Many moments of this record are reminiscent of Julia Holter’s wistful and historicizing Loud City Song. Locher, like Holter, attempts to embody the same singular moment repeatedly, only recapitulating the placements of certain objects within the moment to test their definition. Where Holter spent entire songs meditating on the crowded nothing that occurs in a single moment, Locher crams all of the moments together, creating some genre mutations that can only be considered incidental. However, the entire middle section of the album appears to be a singular suite, each track depositing into the next, before “Today Grew Dark’s” sustained clarinet and fluxing ambience breaks and then starts again in “Knocked on the Ground.” This seems to be less of a continuation of the last section and more of a repositioning. “Knocked on the Ground” lunges into a suite of strings slicing about, never quite lining up, with more sustained tones piercing through, giving way to vinyl crackle and moving into the trip-hop-leaning “Even When the Time Comes.”
I don’t particularly seek out these methods — arranging the organic to construct organic ethereality (myself preferring to do so through the myopic, sculpting reality entirely of minute and monastic particles), and It Happens Outside admittedly tastes sour in my mouth, reminding me of the equally beautiful and vacuousness of Relational aesthetics, in which the artist takes a stance outside of craft-watching. But I must concede that Locher has successfully created little niches in perceptibility with each track in the same way that I must accept the total embodiment of non-action in relational aesthetics. They’re like plastic replicants rather than the experience unveiling itself before you, but that notion of turning music on the listener, music as we know it and hear it (still codified and semi-whole), is still a very interesting turn. Locher’s efforts here are borderline vaporwave in the way that it utilizes and mechanizes signifiers as objects, especially in the jumbled Krautrock of “As a Period in Which Nothing Happens.” The significant objects fold into each other — wailing saxophones, cartoony brass all scramble around, fumbling for footing — but this is useless simply because they are just particles of one’s own perceptive and lived experience. And like particles of perceptive and lived experience, they also slip away.
It Happens Outside is not about the internet; therefore, it is not “vaporizing waves.” It’s more so about the space in which the internet inhabits within our lives. Locher attacks the hypertextual in relation to memory in the same way that David Byrne and Brian Eno attacked the reduction of experience with My Life in a Bush of Ghosts. Many albums take this stab at contemporary culture, but what’s fascinating here is how infantile and playful Locher’s work comes off. He marvels over every sound like a child in a sandbox, subsumed by the immense possibilities — and this is where the magic is. Locher’s album is not for long play; it is for now, the forever now, and his meditations on the nothing of experience reminds me of one of my favorite cinematic moments. The film Rendezvous d’Anna (Meetings with Anna) is similarly a meditation on space and the spaces therein — not really of the room, but of Anna and her state of being within the room. In an extremely beautiful, laborious scene, Anna does something magnificent yet excruciatingly banal: she opens a window. Anna rises from her bed and scales the majority of the length of the room, arms swaying half lazily, half pensively. Time slowly ticks away, as she takes each step in long but slow, swooping strides. And in exactly five beats, she makes it to a window. The window is closed and locked, the glass is thick, there is silence, and Anna observes this. She then unlatches the first window and a low hum enters; she opens the second, lifting it, and wind can be heard, cars, a train; and finally after she pushes the window out and open, a whole rush of sound bursts into the room, flowing past her. The rush of sound is like a symphony, a kaleidoscope of tones and signifiers, and life itself colors the sterile hotel in which she had spent the last near-15 minutes of run time.
Like this scene, Locher positions himself in a liminal place, outside of the standard music narrative affecting and effecting the purely organic. And It Happens Outside arrives at a peculiarly opportune time, wedged between the releases of the ever simulated (and simulating) reality of R Plus Seven, the temporal and spatial testing Loud City Song, and the nature-meditating Field of Reeds. Locher takes organic material and hopes to push it to its limit, fleshing out the hopelessness and ultimately fascinating state of the now. This is a very cinematic practice taking moments in time, qualities, and textures and smearing them before the listener. This post-signifier music follows the structure of narrative only in as far as it is linear in perceptual terms, the fumbling of contextual codes, referents to physical moments as it is collapsed and then having them combine and intertwine is an ambitious stance to take. Again, the playfulness with which Locher strung together this record reflects the way one looks at natural phenomena for the first time, meditating on the definition and dimensions of the moment. And scarily, Locher knows this his album has this to say about itself and him: “Stay inside. Hearing the video, the music, the text… It’s so compelling when you see it all put together.”
01. Shruti’s Song
02. Stoned Eyes
03. Nobody, Not Even the Rain
04. The Fish’s Eye
05. She Who Laughs Last
06. Broadcast Fireworks Display (Pt. 1)
07. Today Grew Dark
08. Knocking on the Ground (Album Version)
09. Even When the Time Comes
10. The Witching Hour
11. As a Period in Which Nothing Happens
12. Broadcast Fireworks Display (Pt. 2)