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The Drift - Noumena

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Artist: The Drift

Album: Noumena

Label: Temporary Residence

Review date: Sep. 13, 2005

A release from the Temporary Residence label, a suggestive band name, a former member of Tarentel, with most songs exceeding 10 minutes in length and a member on trumpet, fluegelhorn, and electronics. One might be forgiven for having certain expectations from The Drift's debut album. In many respects, those expectations are likely to be met much of this album does indeed drift, in a shimmering, ambient post-rock way. I know, the label "post rock" shouldn't be used anymore, but I don't mean it to be descriptive here of anything more than the image it conjures.

The surprise here is that this four-piece brings both an unexpected energy to the songs as well as a distinctly jazzy sensibility. Think stretched-out Miles Davis jams composed by Ennio Morricone. Not that this is that good, but what would be? At points, this does close in on the gold ring, but the band has difficulty overcoming a certain languor that holds them back.

The slow, dramatic opener "Gardening, Not Architecture" emerges from murky electronics with delicate guitar chiming and a thick, slow rhythm section, with long, held trumpet notes. "Invisible Cities" is perhaps the most overtly cinematic track, very dramatic with guitar and trumpet that give it the aforementioned Morricone feel while the jazzier upright bass takes it somewhere else. With a strong beginning and end, this song is an example of the album's peskiest issue: editing, or a lack thereof. There's definitely a place for long, drawn-out songs, but the middle portion of "Invisible Cities" seems too self-absorbed, and outlasts its welcome by several minutes. Its static nature feels like a stationary bike, going around and around but not getting anywhere. When the band eventually kicks in again it should feel like a breakthrough, not a relief.

That song's title may sound familiar to readers, being from Italo Calvino. The liner notes indicate that the song is taken from that writing, though what it means to take music from writing is open to conjecture. Two of the other songs, including the opener, are from Eno's Oblique Strategies card series. In concert with titles like "Inconsistency Principle" (bands riffing on Heisenberg? what's this world coming to?), some might tag this as pretentious, but that's certainly not fair since others will call it welcome exploration. Ultimately, the music stands fairly well on its own, so perhaps it's a moot point.

"Transatlantic" takes its sweet time getting anywhere, but it's a trancey, more consistent journey than some of the others. While it would be even stronger with a tighter time scale, it nonetheless works well. Once the band decides to up the energy level a notch, the song fastens itself to a fast-moving bass pulse and solid drumming with delayed guitar and trumpet which make it a modernized, vaguely dubbified Miles Davis. While in need of overall tightening, each song here is a rewarding listen and, in a comfortable live setting, would be something to see.

By Mason Jones

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Find out more about Temporary Residence

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