Drifting In Silence

Labile Records, 2014

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


I’m going to hazard a guess that not many people would spend two and a half hours intently watching Terminator 2: Judgment Day only to declare, when it’s over, “I want to compose music like that.” It’s just not what your average person is likely to get out of that experience…

The exception would appear to be Mr. Derrick Stembridge, who has, with this album, crafted 10 tracks of edgy electronic music that sounds very much like the soundtrack to a sci-fi thriller. It is moody, often atmospheric, and sometimes willfully weird, full of foreboding and anticipation in the way it builds and then takes sudden, strange turns.

As OK Go can attest, I’m not a fan of chilly, inorganic, synthesizer-centric music. That said, if you’re looking for a particular atmosphere—cold, futuristic and sci-fi-ish—then Drifting in Silence might be right up your alley. It would be a stretch to call my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Desire engaging, but it is different and sometimes intriguing. It’s just hard to wrap your arms around anything of lasting value here; it’s all mood and little substance.

Desire’s nine tracks, each given a single-word title full of foreshadowing, range from three to seven minutes. “Until” opens things up with a looming, ominous industrial feel. Then “Faith” turns even more industrial, though perhaps less interesting; this track feels rather generically futuristic until Stembridge strips it down to just one or two tones in the middle, giving it a simple drama that could work well as a soundtrack to visuals.

The next three cuts offer a bit of variety without escaping the basic palette of cool, distant synth music. “Parallel” feels a little more optimistic than its predecessors; the energetic “Lie” could have been an outtake from an old episode of Miami Vice; and “Desire” is a particularly harsh industrial number for much of its five and a half minutes, though it briefly adopts an airy, almost Pink Floyd feel in the middle section. In other places, though, the track feels claustrophobic, with a range of different synth tones competing with one another.

Interest slips a bit in the latter third of the album. The seven-minute “Undercurrent” offers atmosphere aplenty, but nothing beyond; it just looms and then looms some more. “Consciousness” feels rather generic and underscores what I really don’t enjoy about all-electronic music: electronic rhythm sections. They’re so robotic in texture and tone, I always end up longing for real electric or acoustic bass and acoustic drums.

Closer “Echo” is more contemplative, with a keyboard that sounds like it could be actual acoustic piano. It forms a rather pretty, mellow coda to an album whose dark tones can otherwise come to feel oppressive after a while.

Desire is an accomplished album in the sense that the compositions are for the most part fully realized and well-produced; everything is sharp and clean and strikes a definite mood. It just feels in the end like half a loaf, the spare, brooding score to a movie I’ve never seen. I’d be curious to see it one day.

Rating: C+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


© 2014 Jason Warburg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Labile Records, and is used for informational purposes only.