Nosaj Thing – Drift (2009)

07.10.2009

Anyone who keeps their ear to the blog-tronica ground has likely seen L.A.’s Nosaj Thing popping up to remix here and there, most notably on HEALTH’s 2008 remix album //DISCO and Flying Lotus’ LA EP 2 x 3. Many of these flash-in-the-pan remixers stumble upon gold a few times, with their dirt piles rising higher than any of their potential Hype Machine play counts. Jason Chung’s debut long player is a surprisingly strong and unique entry into a Los Angeles glitch-hop scene that creeps ever closer to the limelight.

The first thing that sets Drift apart from the current L.A. crop is the album’s immediate listenability. While Flying Lotus mastermind Steve Ellison followed J Dilla’s ghost through twisting, claustrophobic chemical haze on 2008 monument Los Angeles, Nosaj takes a more direct route to enlightenment by dressing that trademark off-time swagger in glittering synth sounds and ethereal vocal samples.

That’s not to say that the music is ‘light’ – Chung evokes a similarly dark, barbiturate take on West Coast hip-hop past and present; his end products are simply more stark and glaring. album highlight ‘coat of arms’ starts out with a seemingly innocuous square-wave bounce, until quickly morphing into a pulsing, pounding, skittering nightmare without losing an ounce of swag. ‘Caves’ sees Nosaj reflecting a dubstep lurch off of so many glass buildings, echoing itself and the surrounding synths.

As much as I respect artists who like to ‘take it back to basics’ and ‘look back’ and what not, I find albums like Drift far more compelling; albums that could not have been made anytime other than 2009. it’s a fitting sound for a generation that finds itself way too fucked up to dance, but keeps trying nonetheless.

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