Label: Labile Records
It's difficult to classify what constitutes "experimental electronica," considering the genre's increasing penchant for unstructured melodies and general ambience. That established, it can be said with some confidence that the music of Drifting in Silence, the umbrella pseudonym for instrumentalist Derrick Stembridge, is a good example of it. Stembridge's fifth release Facewithin lies somewhere in between cinematic mood music and an adrenalized video game opus, dressed in a muscular mystique that could be likened to soundtracks for Fight Club, The Matrix, and even Half-Life 2.
Thankfully, Facewithin is true to its aura-crafting purposes, laying off the tired crutches of clubbing music in favor of new age theater. For what it is and what it aims to do, Facewithin is undoubtedly a success, despite its tendency to stand more as a testament to Stembridge's talent than any sort of united vision.
Then again, the latter point is somewhat of a relief: though Facewithin often strives to be a "concept album," its overall effect is nowhere as ham-handed. There are no numbered pieces or character narratives, nor some sort of dystopian metaphor beneath all the musical current. Facewithin is instead scattershot: it spreads it tentacles in different directions, preferring gray and airy sounds paired with driving percussion as substitution for recurring melodies. It is thus freer than the music of, say, Outputmessage or Mint Royale, who rely on pop strategies to deliver their electronic bliss.
It is a credit to Stembridge, then, that Facewithin remains engaging despite the noticeable lack of melodic coherence. Dealing in a palette of razor tones and other crisp sounds, one would think that Drifting in Silence could never achieve the sonic glory that bursts forth from fellow instrumentalists like Explosions in the Sky, with their bell-like guitarwork and climbing melodies. Yet the musical handicap never truly cripples Facewithin, with pieces such as "Coming Up For Air" and "Misunderstood" managing to escape the bittersweet designation of "good driving music."
In reality, Facewithin's greatest weakness is its brevity - consisting of five original tracks and three remixes, many listeners may wish for Stembridge to take a breath and expand beyond the rather quick half-hour running time. The cinematic flair is therefore a tad clipped, though it does nothing to drown Stembridge's other talents. For a self-described symphonic project, Drifting in Silence remains unnaturally disciplined and rarely contrived - a welcome, if unexpected, pleasure.
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Kevin Liedel, MuzikReviews.com Sr. Staff Editor
April 21, 2009
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04. Coming Up For Air
06. Facewithin (Drev Remix) 07. Facewithin (Her Odd Fist Remix)
08. Facewithin (Anthony Baldino Remix)