LA is to hip-hop producers what Portland is to indie bands. Hence, newcomer Nosaj Thing had to fight through a lot of legitimate competition to win his contract at the consistently stellar Alpha Pup. When you hear his debut album Drift, you will know he earned it. This will not be the last you see his name attached to a heaping spoonful of praise.
Granted, after listening to this album half a dozen times, I find myself struggling to enjoy it as much as I did the first few times I heard it. After a while, it starts to go in one ear and out the other. Yet, I believe this is purely a matter of experience and not talent. He has some great ideas, investigating unique electronic and digital hybrid sounds that make up his beats without going glitch gangsta style like edIT or Machine Drum. With a little more complexity and consistently fully fleshed out compositions, he will be one of the genre’s big names.
There are still plenty of highlights to be found in the Drift track listing, though. “Us” is a choice downtempo chill track, with ethereal pads floating around compressed, staggered beat. “Fog” gives the album its early momentum, thanks to a sliced up feminine breath and a suspense/thriller synth melody. “1685/Bach” is more typical for the electronic hip-hop genre, based around a bold synth lead and punchy beat accented by jangling spurs that almost act like a kind of gun-clap. If this album had a lead single, “1685/Bach” would be it. To the uninitiated, one could pick just about any track off this debut and find something impressive about it.
However, to the prospective career fan, these tracks simply aren’t quite intricate enough to sustain a good number of repeat listening. Several sound like they are missing a vocal track, rather than being unquestionably enough to sustain the listener’s unadulterated focus. That’s where Nosaj’s next album will come into play. Drift is a fabulous introduction to a burgeoning beat-making talent, one of the finest since edIT’s Crying Over Pros For No Reason, but Thing’s next record will likely be his One Word Extinguisher. That is where all the questions will either be answered or forgotten.