North Atlantic Drift: Visitor
Polar Seas Recordings

Subtlety, restraint, modesty—such qualities characterize the atmospheric music ambient-electronic duo Brad Deschamps and Mike Abercrombie produce under the North Atlantic Drift moniker. As the Toronto, Ontario residents are no doubt aware, promoting such virtues in a high-decibel culture that champions excess and drama would seem to not only go against the grain but make their project easy-to-ignore. It would be a mighty shame, however, if Visitor were overlooked, given how satisfying a set the recording is on its own admittedly understated terms.

The modesty Deschamps and Abercrombie practice in their musical productions extends to the project's presentation, from the recording's running time (a half-hour) and edition total (100) to the cardstock-booklet packaging. The tracks, too, are short, with only the nine-minute title setting distancing itself from the otherwise three- to four-minute durations. With much of the material having been recorded live and with overdubs kept to a minimum, their approach to the recording also exemplifies restraint. Electric guitars and synthesizers are the dominant sound sources for the mini-album, though percussion and piano find their way into the proceedings, too.

“Recluse” belies its retiring title with an extroverted display of aggressive rhythmning and declamatory melodies—even if the overall presentation is softened by seemingly being wrapped in layers of gauze. The agitation expressed in that opener is largely dialed down in the six pieces that follow, though an occasional flirtation with something heaver does surface now and then: parts of “Everest,” for example, lumber in a way that suggests an epic presence, and the synth-heavy drone “Decay” also builds to a forceful climax. But it's the title track that makes the strongest case for the album and by extension the group. With delicate piano accents and muffled beats woven into its mist-covered design, the piece lurches slowly in a serenading manner that's easy to embrace.

Short though it is, Visitor suggests that North Atlantic Drift's sound has crystallized since Deschamps and Abercrombie formed the group in 2011 and released its debut, Canvas, a year later. Mastered by Recital's Sean McCann, the new set won't fray anyone's nerves; what it does do, though, is present thirty minutes of homespun ambient minimalism sure to appeal to fans of Hammock, Stars of the Lid, and other groups of similar mien.

February 2016