Progress, a natural part of the creative process, allows composer and listener to undergo ever-changing journeys. However, this progress is often a double-edged sword. As artists continue to evolve they run the risk of alienating their audience. If their album has been preceded by singles, people waiting for the debut album will be looking for more of the same, while people new to the group will be far more open to different sounds and styles.
Nosaj Thing’s debut full-length, Drift, is an album of well-produced electronica that blends ambient and atmospheric timbres with an obvious love for Dubstep. For the uninitiated, Dubstep is a soundscape grown from U.K. Drum & Bass, Grime, and R&B. The heavily compressed sounds brought to the masses by artists like Daft Punk & Eric Prydz that create a type of ‘pumping and breathing’ (sounds that fall to the background when the bass drum kicks in) have recently been taken up by most every corner of the dance production world. Dubstep artists have been very quick in adding it to their genre.
Nosaj Thing has not neglected the fine art of production, so every track in his arsenal is dynamic and full of life. The opening track, “Quest”, starts in a gentle manner, reminiscent of his previous Octopus EP (2006). From there he delves into far more specific tastes. If you are a Dubstep fan you will find much to like. Lavish sounds mixed with tight beats lean more on wistful feeling than effervescence, which makes for a lovely change from the usual dance floor fodder. However, for those not already taken by the Dubstep revolution, this might not be an album for you. I would recommend a test drive before you commit to Drift.
One thing that Nosaj Thing showed such promise in previously was his melodies. While Octopus blended both an Aphex Twin- and Boards of Canada-like sound into a truly captivating experience, here the music has taken a back seat to production. While it’s never hard to listen to this album, there is little to get excited about. No one single track ever truly shines. Melodies are underdeveloped and the aforementioned Daft Punk compression technique makes the tracks overbearing. When the processing is pulled back, such as on the track “Us”, Nosaj Thing shows that he is capable of truly outstanding work.
So, while Nosaj Thing has shown progress in his production skills, which some witnessed in his recent Shanghai beat-making workshop, he may have sacrificed accessibility. This is a trade-off which some of his older fans might not be willing to make.