There is a distinctly lo-fi theme that runs through Colin Blanton's (ant'lrd) newest release. The three lengthy pieces are all nicely covered in a light haze of noise and distortion, but it never fully obscures the beautiful melodies and motorized rhythms that lurk beneath that scratchy, decaying surface. Instead, that element of dirt and grime enhances what it covers, resulting in an album that wonderfully blends the raw with the delicate.
The first moments of "Hood" were immediately captivating to me via low tuned drum machines and pleasant melodies underscoring the restrained surging feedback. There is a clear edge of dissonance throughout its nearly 11 minute duration, but the simple melodic progression is the focal point. Blanton continues to add new elements to the mix, fleshing it out in depth and complexity. The final transition is into a massive wall of humming distortion that makes for a fitting, chaotic deconstruction of what all preceded it.
"Kasuisai" is at first similar, leading in with the noisy hum of a guitar amplifier and a low fi beat box clattering away. Blanton sculpts the noise and feedback into abstract, yet clearly structured shapes as he slowly brings in more conventional guitar sounds, again acting as a great melodic counterpoint to the static. What almost resembles an organ appears as well, generating a rapid melody that is repetitive but hypnotizing. As before, the piece eventually transitions into an expanse of metallic scraping and rattling dissonance, echoing away in a lo-fi universe.
The low rumbling of a guitar amplifier also becomes an ambient expanse to open the lengthy "Msdass". However, the overall sound of the nearly 20 minute piece is different compared to what preceded it on the first side. Shimmering, warm layers of static and distortion are cast out, chaotic but not loud or ugly. Instead it becomes a multitude of sweeping, inviting waves of sound. While at times overt guitar-like tones glide through the misty mix, it never becomes the primary focus.
Blanton uses the extra time to build the composition more slowly, layering in more and more noisy elements. It becomes an almost fully sustained wall of noise, but not a harsh one, that continues to be warm and inviting, even as the conventional structure seems to fall apart. As the piece moves on, the overall sound becomes one that is more skewed towards the low end of the frequency spectrum. On the whole, the song is less about the obscured melodies from before and is instead a sustained cloud of drowsy, somnolent noise that lulls far more than it roars.
The lo-fi sheen that covers Sleep Drive may serve to blanket and blur the melodies that Blanton creates, but his natural ability of restraint is a significant asset, keeping the harsher moments dialed back enough to never overshadow the more conventional melodic passages. But both elements are essential, because that gauzy fog that surrounds the entire records creates a captivating narcotic haze that makes this an extremely memorable, inviting record that is just obtuse enough to sound unique, without drifting into pure formlessness.