“Dark Passage” has no lyrics, chorus, refrain, or bridge; it’s a single sinister movement, rising and falling over six minutes. The middle swells with layered guitar parts — reverbed ambiance, chugging and muted rhythms, high-gain leads — and steady drums driven by toms and bass and accented with cascading cymbal strikes. The bass part lies low beneath it all, moving the ominous opening passage toward its inconclusive end.
San Francisco instrumental rock trio The Drift returns with Blue Hour from a trying three-year hiatus punctuated by the loss of two members, one to death and one to departure. Where its earlier work tended toward technical and atmospheric, often featuring jazz and dub elements, The Drift’s new album wears its heart on its sleeve. Artistically, the new direction resonates — although the first half of the hour-long record is so dark it threatens to drag the listener deep down with it. The mood lightens around the middle with centerpiece “The Skull Hand Smiles/May You Fare Well,” a patient, contemplative work surely painted as a shimmering dawn for a band working to emerge from the night. Progress is slow from there, but certain.
Many conceptual albums, instrumental and otherwise, aspire to express conflict, climax, and dénouement. Blue Hour, with songs that are subordinate to emotion yet strong enough to not trivialize or obscure the story as they bear it out, succeeds admirably. (Temporary Residence LTD)