Signaldrift: Two Agents

Signaldrift's sound has never sounded more right for the times than it does now—either electronic music circa 2010 has caught up with the group or vice-versa. Regardless, Two Agents (500 copies) finds the Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based group (now a duo, with Franz Buchholtz , who initiated Signaldrift as a solo project in 1998, having been being joined by John Goelzer in 2005) trumping the two 2005 efforts Girl (Audraglint) and Set Design (Consumers Research & Development) with a dynamic set spread across two twelve-inch vinyl discs.

What's especially appealing about the duo's approach is the satisfying balance it strikes between minimalism and complexity: the tracks' beats, for example, are typically no more intricate than they need to be and as a result a given cut's groove never feels anything less than firmly locked in place. A good sense of pacing distinguishes the material too (the duo stokes the grooving opener “Taking Down Scores,” for instance, for six minutes before introducing the track's melodic content), plus there's both a heavy krautrock and balearic presence to the material, not to mention a driving motorik character (note, for example, just how much momentum and velocity the pulsating bass line and drum pattern bring to the shoegaze-styled euphoria of “Yesterday's Tomorrow”).

Though “Go On Without Me” takes the listener on a scenic fifteen-minute tour through electro-funk territories, the album's best piece is “Tense Situations,” which opens unassumingly in an almost ambient mode before picking up steam with the entrance of a hefty motorik groove. The track receives a considerable boost from a driving bass presence but the coup de grace is an ascending theme that kicks the material into overdrive. A fabulous blend of shoegaze and krautrock, “Tense Situations” is at its best when the song's massive guitar part shatters into a blissful roar. The piece is so strong, in fact, it might be the best thing the group's ever released. A genuine standout, Signaldrift's debut album as a duo is in all probability the outfit's strongest one to date.

July 2010