"Mason’s latest opus builds on his band’s 2016 debut. This time around, in addition to the two-drummer, two-guitar attack — with select strings tuned to microtonal intervals — the bandleader has added a pair of vocalists. That expanded ensemble sound has only deepened the range of Mason’s writing. On the new album’s opening piece, “illuminations,” the singers at first execute parts that echo the quarter-tone dissonances between the guitars; in the final minutes, some of the more traditionally melodic vocal lines give the track a mournful, indie-rock glamour. "
—Seth Colter Walls, New York Times

"Album of the year"
Avant Music News

"Despite its art-song qualities, which are enjoyable on their own, this album also has enough percussive whomp and guitar scorch to be worth playing at wall-cracking volume. It’s one of the most fascinating records of 2020; don’t miss out."
—Burning Ambulance

(l-to-r: dan lippel, andrew smiley, will mason, kate gentile, gelsey bell, charlotte mundy. photo credit Bryan Sargent)

Press Release:

Happy Place is a NYC-based band of two singers, two guitarists, and two drummers, performing music composed by bandleader and drummer Will Mason.

Tendrils is the follow-up to their debut album Northfield, which was praised by Bandcamp Daily as “jittery, manic, and restless,” and by the New York Times for “succeed[ing] at fusing experimental rock and chamber music.”

Tendrils expands on themes from the first album: it is a tense and disquieting sound world marked by microtonally retuned guitars; skittering, irregular meters; and crystalline vocal lines.

The band weaves a strange, surreal fabric, and the performances are virtuosic without feeling sanitized. The music is suffused with nervousness and panic. It is a reflection of an era defined by anxiety, instability, despair; and of efforts to excavate fragile moments of beauty from the muck.

The band’s line-up comprises vocalists Elaine Lachica (New York Collegium, Early Music New York) and Charlotte Mundy (TAK ensemble, Ekmeles); guitarists Andrew Smiley (Empyrean Atlas, Will Mason Ensemble) and Dan Lippel (International Contemporary Ensemble); and drummer Kate Gentile (Phalanx Ambassadors, Miles Okazaki) in addition to Mason on drums and electronics.

On album opener “Illuminations”, a bracing introduction finds the guitars tuned in 1/4-tones over an irregular tom-tom beat. After a frenetic solo from guitarist Andrew Smiley, vocalists Lachica and Mundy conclude with a forlorn, lilting melody. On “Tarnish,” Mundy sings of desiring decomposition. At 5:20, she gasps in a high register: “I want to be dried grass / thirsty and underfoot / I am of the mud / I gift my thorny fists to the dirt.” The song concludes with Mundy shouting “admire! admire!” until subsumed by clangorous guitars.

Title track “Tendrils” finds the band hypnotically vamping over a microtonally tuned organ, exploring so-called “neutral intervals”--the space between a minor third and a major third, for instance. Smiley’s guitar, tuned to quarter tones, and Lippel’s guitar, tuned in just intonation, add clouds of pitches and gestures that are by turns sickly and beautiful. A drum solo from Gentile segues into the ritualistic, phasing “Having, Climbing.”

On “Grain,” a call-and-response chord progression fires off erratically. Mundy sings melancholically: “I know it’s to keep me out of those gray banks / out of that cold / where that sweetness comes and goes / I am well.” A guitar solo from Smiley leads into a shattering, wordless climax: an exultant dance in drifting meters. “Invocations part 1” begins with quadruple-tracked Mundy in duet with Mason on synthesizer. Mundy frantically repeats a series of short, stuttering phrases—”I am like a leaf,” or “Traveling and I”—and, separately, sings as part of a descending major-key chord progression, but often voiced in grating minor 9ths. Gradually the synths swell and the spoken voice is reduced to percussive, shivering phrases. “Invocations part 2” preserves the minor 9ths in the vocals from Lachica and Mundy, but sets them against unpredictable, lush harmonies from the rest of the band.

Album closer “Rapture” begins inside of a blender: an odd-meter, rapidly repeating unison pattern in the guitars and drums, occasionally doubled by distorted vocals. In “Rapture part 2” dueling solos from Lippel and Smiley preface a hocketing, mechanical drum groove, with overlapping but asynchronous harmonies from the guitars and singers. After a slippery, disorienting coda, four D major chords ring out calmly, like bells tolling.

The album was recorded at Degraw Sound and Tiny Panther Recording in Brooklyn New York, and mixed by Seth Manchester (Battles, Lingua Ignota, The Body) at Machines With Magnets in Pawtucket Rhode Island. It was mastered by Carl Saff.

(l-to-r: dan lippel, andrew smiley, kate gentile, charlotte mundy, gelsey bell, will mason. photo credit Bryan Sargent)