concrete concrete - Drifter

concrete concrete – Drifter

I assume, like myself, that many reading this review will be unfamiliar with concrete concrete, a Brooklyn based instrumental trio, who formed circa three years ago. But are they a trio? I can only assume that there has been a recent change in the concrete world, as although the majority of images show three young musicians, their live videos, Bandcamp page and social media outlets indicate four. Not that it matters in terms of this recording, however it did pose a bit of a quandary whilst researching for background info on the band, so my thanks to the guys at Prescription PR for the press release and additional info.

Considering that this is the band’s debut, they have managed to release a rather stunning calling card with Drifter. Oddly though the band’s opening statement, the Hues single, released in June, is the only track to feature vocals. Perhaps not wholly representative of the album, but still, it absolutely nails the essence of the band with their busy angular rhythms and complex metering, juxtaposed by the fluid guitar and subtle melodic texturing. The vocals on Hues, just one example of that subtle blending.

An insight to the concept behind the Drifter – the story of a restless individual who, with some trepidation, leaves his past life for pastures new. The eleven tracks explore the mood swings of our traveller “from euphoria to melancholia – and then back again” eventually transitioning “from a place of chaos and confusion to a new setting in which peace and self-realisation can, and do, occur.”

Worth bearing this in mind as it helps to understand the musical flow of the album and the distinct, but subtle changes in the latter pieces. So let’s take this opportunity to move to those latter pieces, and Arrival and Reverie in particular. Bearing in mind this is a debut album and one presumably undertaken without a huge budget, however the guys have not opted for the easy option and added sampled strings, but have gone that extra mile, calling in and adding in a string ensemble. The end results speak for themselves on the finished album.

Another striking quality on Drifter is the clarity and definition of the recording. To that end the mixing has been undertaken by toe guitarist Mino Takaaki. The influence of toe is evident in the music concrete concrete, which can’t be a bad thing, so having Takaaki undertake the mixing has to be a huge plus here.

So what might you find on Drifter? Well, I’ll skip over the opening atmospheric track and jump to the sublime But I Still, an early indication that Drifter is to be a thoughtful musical journey, as opposed to a collection of numbers, performed by hugely talented musicians merely displaying their undoubted chops, and in deference to the music. But I Still is a great composition, well written and with silky guitar textures, engaging motifs and a rhythm section, hinting at what’s to follow. Immediately sold on the band at this point.

Sequence Rewind, a brief reversed guitar ditty, takes us into Vertigo and here the band start to cut loose for the first time – drummer Kiyoshi Chinzei is energetic, busy, but oh so precise, whereas bassist Kenji Tokunaga seems to float through the intricate arrangement of choppy guitars, dissonant tones and changing meters. We’ve already touched on the Hues single, so swiftly moving on we have another brief interlude, The Cassette, which hints at a ‘demo recording’, before segueing neatly into I Glance Through The Light. Classy and subdued, before kicking off, mid way and breezing to the end.

So far I’ve not made mention of the blistering guitar solos. Well… that’s because there ain’t none! So absorbing is the music that this apparent oversight was not evident immediately, or at least to me anyway. Again a testament to the guys that they put the music first and their technique secondary. Their musicianship is never in question, so the intricate guitar work expertly woven into the fabric of the pieces – just take a listen to the ever criss-crossing Iris Sky. Wonderful!

A final name check and we are done. The expansive If Time Has A Turning Point, musically and conceptually marking the changing fortune of our drifter? The previously mentioned Arrival and Reverie conclude the album, finishing on a extremely positive note both conceptually and musically. A well conceived and thoughtful debut release and one that bodes very well for this band.

01. Departure (1:12)
02. But I Still (6:03)
03. Sequence Rewind (0:22)
04. Vertigo (3:29)
05. Hues (5:26)
06. The Cassette (0:58)
07. I Glance Through The Light (6:59)
08. Iris Sky (4:25)
09. If Time Has A Turning Point (6:28)
10. Arrival (1:47)
11. Reverie (6:06)

Total Time –

Andi Wang – Guitar
Pei Pang – Guitar
Kenji Tokunaga – Bass
Kiyoshi Chinzei – Drums
~ with
Bengisu Gokce – Violin I
Tania Mesa – Violin I
Seoyeon Im – Violin I
Yeonsong Ruah Kim – Violin I
Emili Gelineau – Violin II
Francesca Rijks – Violin II
Yuju Jessie Chiu – Violin II
Anna Stromer – Viola
Jayna Chou – Viola
Emanuel Keller – Cello
Shao Chia Lee – Cello

Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: U.S.A.
Date of Release: 2nd August 2019

concrete concrete – Website | Facebook | Twitter | Bandcamp