Public Memory - Wuthering Drum

by Justin Pearson Rating:8 Release Date:2016-03-18

Everything about Robert Toher's debut album as Public Memory is sensual. Wuthering Drum beats with a steady pulse, allowing for very little deviation in melody while rejecting any unnecessary embellishment. It's single-minded, slick. It creeps and slides its way along a path worn by 90's-era trip hop a la Massive Attack, but without being wholly imitative.

The album deals in subtleties, but there's nothing subtle about it. It's a simultaneously potent and consistent effort. Toher's muted vocals and at times obscure lyrics work to further the murky vibe that radiates from the album's core.

The focus is on mood rather than meaning, and if the music isn't an immediate clue to this, just listen to some of the lyrics. What sounds like gibberish at times is actually Toher's intentional use of glossolalia, where sounds and syllables are used to represent actual words. It works to further the expressive nature of the songs.

On 'Heir', bells clang and blow in the air of the song's effortless breeze. 'Domino' employs an almost snake-charmer-ish quality with whip-crack synth sounds frollicking in the background.

'Interfaith' is a contradiction of sorts. The ritualistic beat and invocation-like chorus makes it feel foreboding, yet holy. 'Zig Zag' bounces around with quick bursts of synth, but still manages to keep things intriguingly menacing.

'Ringleader' is dark, slithering and sexy. There's a cocky, arrogant tone that matches one of the song's lines: "This isn't my first time I know."

'Cul De Sac' is full of a claustrophobia that soothes rather than suppresses. The beat drips with  precision, and it's one of the only songs where the lyrics can be clearly understood. Toher seems to willingly embrace an inner life: "I live in small room/ With all my things in place/ I see no reason to pretend/ Lock the front door/ Shut the curtains." Equally shut-in but no less potent is 'Lunar', where the restraint in his voice matches the heroin atmosphere of the song.

Wuthering Drum is assured. It floats by you in preserved crystals of feeling that spray like a fine mist. It's music with an amorphous quality that you experience rather than simply listen to.

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