Archived Album Review: The Meets - It Happens Outside / by David Bernabo

The Meets’ It Happens Outside is a curious entity. The album plays with the mixture of acoustic, electric, and electronic sounds. There is also an interest in jazz and modern composition, but both interests are tempered by self-plunderphonics in pursuit of the beat. The album, I presume, is the brainchild of Brandon Locher, who has been pumping out a steady stream of interesting projects with his co-founded label/support structure, My Idea of Fun, out of Johnstown, PA. The piece that first drew me in was his humorously distant Conversations where a phone call chain sustains itself by the next caller answering the previous caller’s greeting and ensuing discussion. But It Happens Outsideis a different beast.  

The music is dense and constantly shifting. There are a few entry points for me that may help frame this review. If the music is conceptual, the concept may be dealing with minutiae. The album’s editing is the central player. Songs are built upon small edits - I’m guessing thousands. The Books have mined this ground before, but their tone always felt a bit academic. It Happens Outside grooves. It breathes. At times, it lets some steam off. Jeremiah Cymerman, who has released a few stellar albums of precise composition and editing on Tzadik, also comes to mind. Where Cymerman usually limits his palette to a few instruments or source sounds, Locher has amassed an army of sounds from which he can pluck. Madlib (mostly anything) or Flying Lotus’ Cosmogramma also tie into the elastic nature of some of the rhythms.  

With a palette dripping with sound sources, the element that ties the record together is the presence of rhythm. Collections of drum kits, electronic beats, clatter, and rumbles form a bedrock for each piece to grow and shrink, adding melodic ornaments and then submerging those elements under new findings. The ingredients in each mix are fascinating and leave the listener eager for the next combination of disparate sounds. “Stoned Eyes” rolls out drums patterns, piling on layer after layer - piano, guitar, synth, turntable, percussion - until the listener loses frame of reference. What is a sample, what is real? “Nobody, Not Even the Rain” is another parade of rhythms - think less college tribal and more Mt. Eerie tribal.  

There are plenty of melodic statements. In fact the album is hyper-melodic. New statements pop out of every corner, lasting anywhere from a second-long blitz to a developed arpeggiated chord pattern. The most successful passages develop a motif while manipulating the harmony. Take “The Witching Hour” - an acoustic guitar introduces the melody. Vibes form a duo. Electric guitar, a trio. Then the ensemble enters - squeeks, record scratches, piano, and drums breaks. Swells of horns add atonality and in some cases either microtonality or intonation issues. The piece lets the listener in and then provides room to wander and explore. In contrast, the first half of the record acts as show-and-tell where Locher and company throw a million ideas at the listener. Most of those ideas stick. About two-thirds through the album is where the listener needs some time to absorb the album and luckily/skillfully, “Even When the Time Comes” and “The Witching Hour” provide some time for reflection.  

When I consider “free improv,” I usually bucket the term into two camps. 1) Music that is created on the spot, but tends to pull from each musicians’ experience, skill, and history and 2) music is that is searching for new sounds with every step forward. While It Happens Outside was created from a number of sources, many improvised or separated from the intent of this album, this album is by no means a free improv record. But I feel like the goals of the latter definition serve as a mission for this album. Each new second brings the opportunity and the responsibility to further the music - to change the context of the previous setting by introducing a new statement. 

Pick up the LP/DL: http://www.myideaoffun.org/101/mif254.html