PREMIERE: Happy Place - Rapture

Laura Kerry

Happy Place’s “Rapture” is a noise rock song, but it also isn’t. First of all, if you want to be technical about it, it doesn’t even qualify as a song. A song requires words set to music; an all-instrumental work like this is a work, piece, or composition. And “composition” feels much more appropriate for the work of Will Mason, a composer and conservatory-trained drummer, currently pursuing his PhD in music theory at Columbia while leading a chamber ensemble. In his band Happy Place, he has all the fixings of noise rock—explosive percussion, screeching guitars, and, well, noise—but as “Rapture” shows, he imbues it with so much more.

The video, a live performance from Cake Shop in New York, makes that apparent. In it, we see Happy Place’s two guitarists (Andrew Smiley and Will Chapin) and two drummers (Mason and Austin Vaughn) jamming out in an immersive but tranquil manner, while gazing occasionally at the sheet music (sheet music in rock ‘n’ roll!) in front of them. The composition drones on with small changes in simple guitar lines led by rapid, jazz-infused drumbeats, but the video reveals the remarkable intricacy of the operation. “Rapture” is precisely plotted and just as precisely executed. Calling on his composer background but harnessing the visceral power of noise rock, Mason and Happy Place create an oppressive yet thrilling work that lures the listener into a seven-minute trance, not loosening its grip until the very last dissonant guitar note and meticulous cymbal crash fade.