The Drift Noumena

[Temporary Residence; 2005]

Styles: post-rock, fusion
Others: Do Make Say Think, Bark Psychosis, Bitches Brew, Tortoise

At this point in our musical juncture, post-rock by all accounts is supposed to be old hat, a pretentious exercise in pushing rock's boundaries that has presumably failed due a stringent self-consciousness suffocating the liberal influences of jazz and classical structure. But while there are still many willing to deride Tortoise and the slews of other fusion-inflicted indie-rockers that came in their wake, it's foolish to overlook that there have been, and continue to be, certain bands willing to give the rock aesthetic an epic and ponderous treatment that furthers the genre more uniquely than most conventional acts have recently.

The Drift are on Temporary Residence, one of the more notable labels doing their part to make post-rock a not-so-disparaging term, and like labelmates Explosions in The Sky, they may not be rewriting the books on how rock is supposed to ebb and flow, but their talent and execution are convincing enough to avoid mere déjà vu of their influences. Where Explosions have taken the Mogwai-bombast quotient to newer, and perhaps more successful, realms of beauty, The Drift take the jazz-inflicted compositions made notable by Canadian band Do Make Say Think to a plane tied closer to that sound's subtleties.

Likewise, Noumena, the San Francisco outfit's first full-length, may at times ring a little too familiar to some upon initial listens, but where a band like Do Make Say Think use climatic bursts of sound as a pay-off, The Drift are content to let their songs channel dusky, ambient grooves rather than build into instant gratification. Opener "Gardening, Not Architecture," for instance, opens with the soothing buzz of a bowed upright bass before locking into a mid-tempo tread the shines with familiar chiming guitar rings and plucks before returning to its unassuming yet provoking beginnings. What's remarkable is how this song, and the others on Noumena, never fall prey to the pangs of monotony, a trap way too many of their peers have often fallen victim to when approaching their material from similarly ethereal standpoints. Part of this success may partially lie in the allowance of the musicians to try their hand at improvising rather than solely sticking to a calculated pace. Hornplayer Jeff Jacobs lets his trumpet roam on its own on "Hearts Are Flowers," which suggests that a work like Miles Davis' Bitches Brew may be a more significant reference point than whatever Tarentel (of which shares a member with The Drift) comparison one wishes to drudge up.

Noumena is proof positive that "post-rock," or whatever it's termed these days, still has a certain unreached potential to be discovered, and The Drift seem to have hit upon a direction that is urgent enough to venture further into. Whether it's the more pronounced presence of jazz on the record as a driving factor rather than a superfluous influence or the unabashed juxtaposing of Eno's ambient work (as mentioned in the liner notes) which allows the more drifting (no pun intended) sounds to intrigue rather than bore, Noumena could, and should, launch The Drift alongside folk like their labelmates in Explosions In The Sky as some of the more compelling cases to be made for instrumental rock.

1. Gardening, Not Architecture
2. Invisible Cities
3. Hearts Are Flowers
4. Transatlantic
5. Inconsistency Principle
6. Fractured Then Gathered (Reprise)