Sometimes opening notes turn out to be misdirection; sometimes that introduction to an EP or album doesn’t necessarily represent that work’s best qualities. “Dark Passage,” the song that opens The Drift’s Blue Hour, is a solid dose of Krautrock-infused math rock, the sort of ornate, rapid-fire song that seems almost archetypal in its execution. The problem, though, is that it’s almost too archetypal -- upon hearing this one song, a listener could be forgiven for expecting a certain outcome, a certain style, a certain variety of instrumental workout that could have existed any time from about 1990 on.
Head further into Blue Hour and the sound deepens, however, taking on an ambient quality at times and at others pushing toward an expansive evocation of bliss reminiscent of early Sigur Ros. The steady drone of “Bardo II” and the quietly emergent melodies of “Fountain,” which closes the album, stand as high points for this album’s cosmic tendencies. Elsewhere, they blend their fondness for intricacy with a textured ambient drone: “The Skull Hand Smiles / May You Fare Well” slowly builds momentum and volume over its 12 minutes, but the effect is stately and beatific rather than complex for the sake of complexity. The central melody heard here isn’t particularly ornate, but the instrumental interplay and counterpoints are precisely woven in, creating a subtle sense of layers. And “Hello From Everywhere” taps into a low-key cinematic melancholy -- the sort of musical backdrop to follow a moody protagonist on a walk through washed-out industrial landscapes.
In the end, Blue Hour makes for a solid, engrossing listen. One can get lost inside songs such as “Continuum” or “Luminous Friend,” where a slight dub influence makes for an interesting counterweight to the guitar-driven melodies. At the same time -- as the group’s name might indicate -- this isn’t the weightiest of works. Instead, it hovers, diffuse and sprawling; after that initial attack, it’s content to wander and expand, a focused ambience with a strong sense of rhythm.