With two drummers and two guitarists, Will Mason has found his Happy Place. Not only is Northfield happy ~ it’s loud and boisterous, as the quartet buys into its name. Some may interpret it as an improvisational racket, but this music is composed. It takes careful planning for a band so tight to sound so loose.
If one lets the album play without watching the track titles or listening for the spaces between songs, one might also be fooled into thinking that the album is a single jam session. Northfield certainly bears one of the most unusual constructions in recent memory, with seven tracks clocking in at under five minutes each and one at over thirteen. Then there are the exclamation points that accompany six of the titles, and the fact that the album contains a utensil triptych (“Fork!” “Spoon!” “Knife!”). The first single, “Spoon!” was once the rallying cry of the cartoon character The Tick, a fact with which the band is doubtlessly aware, given the fact that the album cover features a character of the same blue tint. Yes, the band is having fun ~ with their instruments, with each other, with us ~ given their name, we’d expect no less.
Leader Will Mason has moved from his early band Like Bells to the Will Mason Ensemble and now to Happy Place, shredding incarnations like snake skins. He sounds more liberated than ever, free to play what he wants, with whom he wants, as long as he wants. The “processional” that launches the album (or should we say “lunches”?) is but an overture, ending in six dark, pounding beats before the band starts to rock those utensil tracks. There’s no telling if actual utensils were used in these tracks (à la “Spoonman”), but a castanet-style sound in “Fork!” hints at their presence. And when two drummers are present, there’s a LOT of percussion to enjoy. The transition to “Spoon!” is nearly unnoticeable, as smooth as the transition between eating one thing on a dinner plate and then another. And are those cowbells, wandering from speaker to speaker? Christopher Walken would be proud.
It’s not until “Rapture!” (the third part of a second triptych that includes “Nurture!” and “Rupture!”) that things slow down a bit, but not by much. Ironically, the album’s longest track includes spaces within its grooves that may lead one to believe that the track has changed when it has not. After a rabid beginning, the drummers finally get a break, but only long enough for a swig of water each. We’re guessing that this is a band one will want to see in concert, given the energy exploding from every pore. “Rapture!” (no relation to Blondie) provides time for repetition, but more importantly, the break from repetition that stirs a crowd into a frenzy. And what happier place is there than the middle of a dance floor, diving back into the crowd after a light break? We’re hoping that Mason continues in this incarnation for a while; one album isn’t enough. (Richard Allen)
Release date: 28 October