July 20, 2010

Nosaj Thing - Drift

Officially twelve tracks long with the inclusion of the aptly titled `Harrison Ford,' Nosaj Thing is on his way to becoming a legend! You've probably already listened to some of his stuff, and without even knowing it: off of Kid Cudi's mixtape, the track `Man on the Moon;' the phenomenal track 'Camel' from Flying Lotus, there's a remix from Nosaj Thing out there; and the Daedelus `Madness' remix. He's all over the place yet (at the time this review was written,) he still has no Wikipedia page. His real name is Jason Chung and there really are no words to describe his unique sound. He's the epitome of what it means to be a musical nomad. While many have drawn comparisons to Flying Lotus, others have said he sounds a little like Aphex. There may be some validity to all these claims but let's not be so limiting. Nosaj Thing's album length debut Drift most closely resembles the soundtrack to a dream.

It opens with `Quest,' an avant-garde track teeming with dreamy landscapes and resonant claps backed by the sound of multiple toy pianos. Add to that some elements of glitch and an eerie choir midway through the song and you've got the overall feel of this phenomenal opener. A starter that stays in the back of your mind throughout the entire album and works perfectly with the rest of the tracks because of its odd attractiveness and ability to form images just with sounds. This is part of Chung's genius: he can lure you into his world of soundscapes just with the opening track and yet, you never feel imprisoned. As `Quest' drifts off to the back of your mind, `Fog' comes off as the first "real" track wrought with a steady beat that picks up midway through the intro and then transforms into an infectious beat. Arguably one of his best tracks, Chung manages to combine pensive synths with the chopped up sample of someone breathing out. `Coat of Arms' is the closest thing to a FlyLo track, imagine a beat that opens with the sound of something that can only be described as a massively reverbed "ah," teamed with the subtle groan of a blue whale. Layered claps, a thumping kick, and a croaky lead synth? Check, it's all there. He even throws in a choir overflowing with echo. The thing that makes this track sound like a FlyLo production is the way the beat manages to cut out every single time the kick drum reverberates, giving this track a sort of hypnotic feel.

`IOIO,' a personal favorite of Chung's, features sputtery drums and a steady wave of resounding synths coupled with some spliced mono synths. `IOIO' plays out as a track that doesn't draw too much attention to itself though it's one of the more complex ones on the album, in addition to `1685/Bach,' another technically proficient track that seems to wander all over the place with its beat. Though many of the tracks are riddled with symptoms of ADD, this tracks feels like the most nomadic of the bunch. With each instrument never fully reaching its apex, this one makes you think you want to hear more without realizing that you are in fact hearing all that there is to hear... `Caves' naturally has that "sounds like it was recorded in an underground cave" feel and showcases waspy drones and the ever-present steady drum pattern layered with claps.

`Light#1 & #2' are two separate tracks I feel should be combined not only because of the names but because of their sound. The first one opens with a sampled bell that is brilliantly chopped up to accompany the entire song and then quickly dissipates into a boomy track fashioned with out-of-tune video game sounds. Awesome and incredibly hard to describe, this one is another album staple, but not without `Light#2.' The intro sounding like a clash between something from the late-seventies to mid-eighties, it gradually transforms into a real mindbender, the first track to spotlight a shaker! `2222,' is the dreamiest track of the entire record. Drones, ambient-whistling, and staggering sub-harmonic frequencies galore, no drumming to be found on this track.

`Us,' `Voices,' and `Lords,' are three tracks I think work together to create a sort of trilogy of sounds. Overly simplistic, `Us,' enthralls us with cricket-sounding drums and an interestingly repetitive sound which seems to find its continuation in `Voices' which interestingly enough begins with muffled drums and then persists with the addition of rear percussion but ends on the same note it started, quiet and muffled. The closing track, `Lords' reintroduces the concept of a sampled choir and this time actually takes center stage. Reminiscent of apocalyptic mantras and epic orchestral pieces, this one's larger-than-life; it's like you're waking up from a dream. This essentially, is the perfect closer to an amazing album. What with the creepy double-layering of extremely spliced samples played to emulate human voices; no human choir could ever sound like the one featured in `Lords.'

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