The Drift Memory Drawings

[Temporary Residence Limited; 2008]

Styles: jazz, dub, post-rock
Others: Art Ensemble of Chicago, This Heat (minus some of the abrasions)

It’s an easy trap to point out The Drift’s reggae leanings for all the wrong reasons. Many listeners of their second full-length, Memory Drawings, will gesture to the post-rock outfit's (we’re still calling this “post-rock”, right?) clattering, disarming use of dub textures in the propulsive middle section of the spectacular “If Wishes Were Like Horses” as an all-too-obvious reference point — sort of like watching The Wire and saying that it’s like Homocide: Life on the Street because both shows have cops as main characters.

Instead, the most fascinating element that The Drift share with reggae is the genre’s sense of underlying dread, even in its most positive moments. Just like being stoned, reggae reproduces the feeling of becoming blissfully bummed-out, with a creeping sense of ‘What’s next?’ always in the back of one’s mind. Through Jeff Jacobs’ trumpet, Memory Drawings achieves this sort of existential dread; the bleating warning signs of “Uncanny Valley” kick off the groove-laden, tension-ridden jam, whereas it disruptively drifts (sorry, everybody) throughout the steady come-down of “I Had a List and I Lost It.” Suffice to say, without Jacobs’ expressive slow-burning runs, “I Had a List” would sound like little more than Canadian instrumental pop fascism courtesy of ‘second verse, same as the first’ also-rans like Do Make Say Think.

Let’s spread credit where credit is due, though: Jacobs isn’t the entire band, and the inimitable instrumental command exhibited on Memory Drawings proves as much. Guitarist Danny Grody, bassist Safa Shokrai, and drummer Rich Douthit (formerly of labelmates Halifax Pier) interlock and play off of each other in massive Technicolor, adding a spectacular energy to “Smoke Falls.” It’s like the Art Ensemble of Chicago records if they weren’t as fussy and wound-up and more panoramic in sonic vision.

The ethereal ebb and flow of the shimmering “Lands End” (as well as the reprise of the main theme of “If Wishes Were Like Horses” and that spectacularly massive finale) should work well as Memory Drawings’ final bow; the fact that it isn’t underlines the record’s sole (and, it should be said, minor) Achilles' heel. The prototypical post-rock of “Golden Sands” and the eternally disappointing closer, “Floating Truth,” allow The Drift to earn their surname in the most meandering, wandering way. However, they are but minor hiccups in what has to be one of the most promising instrumental albums released in a year where we’ve been lucky to receive anything that wanders off a well-beaten path.

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