» Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]


 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]


 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
The Drift
Temporary Residence Ltd.

Rating: 7.5/10 ?

January 11, 2006
Down the rabbit hole you go, sport - just like in Alice in Wonderland. Where you'll end up is anybody's guess. That's the beauty of some of the gray, vertiginous drones The Drift come up with on Noumena, the debut full-length from San Francisco's answer to Tortoise. You might go crashing headlong into some dreamy shoegazer cloud of guitar vapor. You might drown in the flood of reverberating trumpet escaping from Jeff Jacobs' mouth or find yourself caught in the grip of Safa Shokrai's snaky upright bass and feel it winding around your torso. With The Drift, you learn to expect the unexpected.

Months ago, The Drift wafted onto the post-rock scene with the Streets/Nozomi 12" and confounded critics with their ever-shifting instrumental soundscapes. Into each long, extended track, The Drift casually tossed in elements of dub, jazz and ambient music with more grounded guitar rock, and the scenery went from deep space to the Middle East to urban bohemia so effortlessly you almost didn't notice the change.

With Noumena, you can't help but notice how enamored The Drift has become with drones. Where the Streets/Nozomi 12" had a few small pockets of it, Noumena is full of these layered, yet one-dimensional tunnels of sound and The Drift spends a lot more time following them to wherever they lead. The result is a much colder environment of tonality, one where the more vibrant colors of Streets/Nozomi fade to gray. If The Drift want to move in that direction, that's fine. But because the quartet is so skilled at improvisation and paints such beautiful musical frescos, the drones of Noumena fail to excite in the same way the Streets/Nozomi 12" did.

Here, they come in like the tide, reaching shore and then curling back out to sea like in the chilly intro to "Transatlantic" and the constant ebb and flow lasts for almost four minutes before Shokrai arrives with a deliberate, almost bored bass line. The warped, trilling horns and guitar feedback build a lovely, ivy-covered bridge to a jazzier passage where Rich Douthit's drums gather and build in intensity, but this arrives at about the eight-minute mark - too late to save listeners who'd thrown themselves off the track long before it arrives. Even slower and more ponderous is "Fractured Then Gathered (Reprise)," but the harrowing, abandoned factory feel of the piece is, in and of itself, hauntingly rendered with the help of Danny Grody's heaving church-bell guitar.

Patience is required with Noumena and you will be rewarded. Whether the payoff is worth it is debatable. I think it is. Throughout Noumena, you're constantly scooping your jaw up off the floor, like in the beginning of the 11-minute opener "Gardening, Not Architecture." Using a bow to abuse the strings of his bass, Shokrai creates this kaleidoscope of discordant sounds that gradually gains momentum until it disappears, never to be heard again - that is, until the end of the track. It's one of those rare instances where you realize that what you've just witnessed is something completely unique and alien, and yet it was completely organic. The rest of the track feels more pedestrian, but the melody sparkles, with horns, metallic electronics and Grody's yearning guitar.

In a sense, Noumena embraces a more psychedelic aesthetic, traveling in the same cosmos as Pink Floyd, the early version. That's especially true of "Invisible Cities." Washing sounds and neon icicles of guitar notes fall on top of a repetitive bass line, until a solid, firmly grounded guitar-rock melody is found and Jacobs' fat trumpet wails lazily until destroyed by Sonic Youth-style feedback. What follows is a nuclear winter of washed-out cymbals, wind-swept electronica, lonely horns and dark guitar that get swept up in an overwhelmingly powerful rhythmic surge that feels huge and epic.

Is Noumena a disappointment? The short answer is, yes. But that's only because The Drift set the bar so high with Streets/Nozomi. At its worst, Noumena follows a bit too closely the examples of their post-rock comrades in arms Godspeed You Black Emperor! and Mogwai, especially in some of the more rock-oriented parts. They seem too simple for The Drift, too mundane and flat. Still, if you're paying attention, there's a lot here that'll leave you awestruck, and there's an unpredictability to the arrangements that has you wondering what's behind Door No. 3. It might be the Sistine Chapel or it might be a donkey.

Reviewed by Peter Lindblad
Peter Lindblad lives in Appleton, Wis., and bleeds green and gold just like all the Packer fan nutjobs in the area. He does draw the line at wearing blocks of chedder on his head, or any other body parts for that matter, though. His professional career has taken weird twists and turns that have led him to his current position as an editor at a coin magazine. He hopes his stay there will be a short one. Before that, he worked as an associate editor at a log home magazine. To anyone that will listen, he\'ll swear that Shiner was one of the greatest rock bands to ever walk the earth. Yet he also has much love for Superchunk, Spoon, DJ Shadow, Swervedriver, Wilco, Fugazi, Jawbox, ... And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, Queens Of The Stone Age, and Modest Mouse, among others.

See other reviews by Peter Lindblad



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