Stage Hands plays like a soundtrack to a space odyssey. Elements of organic piano, analog samples and electronic quirks are constructed into a work of art. That artistry comes form multimedia artist and producer, Brandon Locher and drummer and producer, Gerald Mattis. Their self-titled debut LP, released February 10, ebbs and flows through meditative sonic moments and explosive jazz theories.
Locher has released over 60 works under different monikers and through different mediums. Most recently, he led a 20-person avant-orchestra and released visual work with Ghostly International. His most recent endeavor with Stage Hands, Mattis and Locher mold their cosmos with acoustic ideas and pulsating electronic kits to create an infinite space with plenty of listening exploration.
The album begins with delicate piano from John Livingston. Electronic layers are added that introduce a vast yet complex space: Wind sounds, is that a bird?, spiraling piano and a faint beat to keeps the listener on track.
Then "The Populating of Empty Space" is just that. Once again we are stripped to an infinite blank canvas. Glitches speak, as if a painter is experimenting with bright colors. Those glitches turn into moderated murmurs. Then all of the sounds begin to understand, work around, glide against and lift each other.
"Adaptive Lines" creates a picture of lights flickering in a dim space. then a line slinks through these flickers. It's covertly complex. A first listen would think it to be minimalistic, when it's simply well constructed and perfectly pieced together. There's a lot going on, but each piece has a place and a purpose. A sample of what sounds like ice clinking in a glass, perfectly resonates with a slow cymbal shimmer.
"#unabomber" uses narration to break up the terrain. Asking the listener to step back and ponder what they've just explored.
While the album seems futuristic and cutting-edge, it's using objects and knowledge we've had all along. Stage Hands uses the unbearably common place and creates something wondrous. It creates a soundtrack to simple thoughts, minuscule synapse connections and forces the listener to mediate and think on the beauty in blank space.
Listen to the full album here.
Locher talked to us about his creative process and melting artistic passions into music.
Where does your inspiration come from?
I feel like all of my work is very pre-meditated and before I start to physically work on a project I usually generally have a very clear understanding of my vision and what I'm trying to execute and create. I think life is so rich and feel like inspiration can come from anywhere. Living in New York City is inspiring and just feeling the energy from so many other people and the city itself makes me want to keep making new work daily.
Is there an overarching theme to this album?
There isn't an overarching theme so to say but Stage Hands is actually the very first musical project that I used a laptop as my primary instrument. I guess it's my first "laptop" record.
Would you call yourself experimental? Where would you place your music and art?
Not necessarily. I don't generally try thinking or associating with different labels or genres because I think the second you start classifying something it boxes it into a corner and people have a hard time seeing it for what it truly is. I also try to not make art or music with an audience in mind but instead try making things that I have a strong personal desire to express and create and just let everything else fall organically into place.
What got you started in multimedia art and music?
I've been drawing since a child and always have been art obsessed. I'm not really sure where or how the interest started but it seemed to always be there.
What was the process of bringing together acoustic and electronic together?
Right away I started making field-recordings of organic sounds that was then digitally sampled and manipulated. I would set up and record several improvisational situations using analog synthesizers or even acoustic percussion instruments to then make sample banks that I'd then import into Ableton.
I think I've always been interested in acoustic and organic sounds and attempting the blur the lines between physical and digital. I want to constantly keep developing, remixing, and exploring my own sense of expressing using visual and acoustic space. I want to record orchestras and brass bands playing outdoors in parks with those bandstands that project echo. I want to record an ensemble of drummers playing alongside a highway with multiple sets of microphones traveling away from the drums in consistent intervals deep into a scenic valley. Taking all of this organic material and digitally altering its properties is very interesting to me.