What Happened from Ohio-based Emeralds is simply what happened when synth players John Elliot and Steve Hauschildt improvised in the studio along with guitarist Mark McGuire. In the hands of lesser musicians, this type of freedom can result in undercooked ideas, but Emeralds operate with a keen sense of direction that never comes off as overindulgent. This five-song collection of shimmering, corroded textures creates a rich sonic palette shot through with a palpable sense of dread. Cluster, Eno and Klaus Schultz are clearly touchstones for Emeralds, but their work here feels autonomous.
Sparse, floating guitar melts into a slow-burning synth sizzle in “Living Room”—a track that manages to remain compelling despite being nearly seventeen minutes long. The album as a whole feels exactly that—a whole, cohesive album rich with atmosphere and purpose. Emeralds have an uncanny sense for knowing when to shift into new territory within a track, when to peel back the layers to reveal something new. The majestic and carefully considered playing on What Happened finds Emeralds working as one to produce a solid collection of electronic landscapes.