Stage Hands

Stage Hands

Stage Hands, Brandon Locher's follow-up project to his everything-and-the-kitchen-sink free-jazz ensemble The Meets, is what It Happens Outside would sound like if all of those "outside" sounds were digitized and synthesized into Locher's Abelton Push and Gerald Mattis' expressive live drumming. For Stage Hands, the impressive arrays of sounds both sampled and live Happen Inside. There is a lot in here. And for the depth and breadth this record covers, it feels compact and sturdy. Brevity and completeness instead of endlessly feeling out new sonic territory.

There is a reason no one prints the response to the question, "so, uh, how did you come up with your band name?". Because it is an incredibly boring question and incredibly boring response. "Um, because it sounds cool." "Um, it is a French literary term for the relaying of obscure and antiquated terms because band names are inherently meaningless." "Um, fuck you for asking." So, naturally, when I asked Brandon Locher the epitome of the banal music journo question, "so, uh, how did you come up with your name" I wasn't expecting to hear a response I've been ruminating on for months.

Locher explained that the idea came after sampling the piano line at the center of the eponymous opening song. That through surrounding the piano line with accoutrements such as electronic programmed beats as well as other sampled and digitally produced sounds - endlessly tweaked and manipulated to infinitesimal degrees - along with Mattis's lock-step groove and emotive fills, they were acting as stage hands of sorts, setting the scene wherein the piano would deliver its best lines in the context of something else.

Stage Hands, however, do not operate in anonymity. Their mitts are all over these tracks. Locher's ability to populate every possible space with melodic synth lines, skittering drum patterns, start-stop abruptness and golden long-playing tone massaging. Mattis's drumming can leap into playing funky, muscular lead rhythms or slink into the swirling sea of roiling rhythm patterns, his splashy fills and minimal effect-pad rhythms blending into the layers of tones and melodies that make their presence known and then recede back into the pregnant ether.

Can we talk about "#unabomber", Stage Hands collaboration with singer-songwriter The One and Only Matt Miller? I've stated in other places that Matt Miller is one of my favorite songwriters in a long time. In this track, considerably longer and darker (tonally and content-wise than most of the album) you hear some of Miller's whip-smart and doggardly clever lines covering NSA surveillance, drone warfare, the housing market crash, fracking and antidisestablishmentariansim. It is a clear stand-out on the album make the best use of Stage Hands maximalist song structures and Miller's earnest, searching voice.

There is more in here than can fit on Locher's hard drive. Humanity is in full display on this record. It happens inside but only through the careful arrangement and scene-setting of two humans working in synchronized connection with one another.

Purchase via Stage Hands Bandcamp

February 10th, 2015