"Drift" by Nosaj Thing

Nosaj Thing
Drift

Alpha Pup Records
2009

Review

This album made me feel like I was watching a Sci-Fi movie or that I was dreaming about some future not yet realized. It is an album heavy with electronic sounds processed many times and layered over each other to make something that is unlike most of what you are used to hearing. Unless you are yourself from the future - in which case, this is a really old album to you that you've probably listened to over a million times already - you should give this album a listen.

I'm not sure that I've listened to an album that it was so apparent the music was being made on a computer. Sure, most modern music is made with computers. So that isn't the surprising part. But it seems that every sound on this album has been through a very large pipeline of digital processing. In particular the vocal samples. The human voices on the album have been obfuscated with effect after effect that sometimes you might wonder if the sounds started with real people at all. The other thing is that it for people who grew up playing video games will be right at home with this album. It sounds like something from a really good (Science Fiction) RPG. I don't want that to sound like an insult to what is here though. It's just to say that this is really something that most people wouldn't necessarily dig right away if you aren't into electronic music. Given my great love of really weird electronic stuff, I was seriously digging on this one.

I don't know much about Nosaj Thing other than his name tends to come up in close proximity to the words "like Flying Lotus" and that his real name is Jason Cheung. There's a great interview about the man's background that you can read here. Although I think that perhaps FlyLo and Nosaj Thing are from the same musical universe, I think that they each have there own distinctive style. For sure Nosaj Thing is more into playing with audio-processing algorithms in a way that is more obviously apparent than in something that Flying Lotus would create. In a way, I think that Nosaj Thing's music takes a more honest approach to being "computerized". I don't mean "honest" as in to say that FlyLo's music isn't real. Please. I love me some FlyLo. But I think that Nosaj Thing's music sounds more like it was made on a computer.

There is a real sense of foreboding on many of the songs on the album that can at first be a bit off-putting. Take for example "Fog", "Coat Of Arms", and "Lords". "Fog" starts off like the theme music from a scary movie before it turns less ominous and more playful (think "Basketcase" or "Ghoulies"). "Coat Of Arms" feels like an electric-exorcist while "Lords" belongs in a John Carpenter movie. For me, these songs weren't as interesting as the rest of the album although they are each interesting enough to warrant a listen. Where Nosaj Thing really takes off is when the focus is on less the non-frightening and more the having fun with sounds like he does on "Light #1" and "Light #2".

"Light #1" is awesome. It is like Electronic Indy-Rock. For me, this is Nosaj Thing at his best. Catchy as hell layered Electronic sounds painting a moving picture in your head is what this does. It is followed by the equally compelling "Light #2" that starts with a Eurthymics-ish synth opening before taking a decidedly Hip-Hop-ish turn. This song in particular made me think of music from the future. The bests songs on this album have a great feeling of momentum to them (that is the best way for me to try to describe it - it's like the feeling you get when you are in a groove - that feeling that you can do whatever you focus on). "IOIO" and "1685/Bach" carry this trait of momentum. Fans of El-P-style discordance will feel right at home with "1685/Bach" which feels like something off of Fantastic Damage just slowed down a bit.

There are couple of excellent chillout moments on the album as well in the form of "2222" and "Us". "Us" is reflective and meditative while "2222" sounds like a beautiful woman smiling at you in slow motion (which is to say good). Hey, music that can make you feel good must be a good thing and those put off by the computer heavy aesthetic and stuck in the past. You can get a dose of goodness from the future today and I say the future (at least for electronic music) looks bright.

4.250 out of 5

Track Ratings

1. Quest (01:36) 3
2. Fog (03:42) 4
3. Coat of Arms (03:28) 4
4. IOIO (03:24) 5
5. 1685/Bach (02:48) 5
6. Caves (03:47) 3
7. Light #1 (02:55) 5
8. Light #2 (03:10) 5
9. 2222 (01:59) 5
10. Us (03:06) 5
11. Voices (03:20) 4
12. Lords (03:37) 3