Minus Records mainstay Marc Houle returns with his new full-length album, Drift, and continues to refine his sound. Written in Berlin during the bleak winter months of 2009, Drift stands apart from anything Houle has released to date. He’s stripped away much of the wackiness and playfulness that has become his signature, opting instead for a dark and cold aesthetic. Houle’s sound has never been one that is easy to classify, as he’s always been a bit left of centre when it comes to techno — he doesn’t just write dancefloor bangers and/or head-bobbing numbers for home listening, yet his music always fits comfortably both in and out of the party.
With tracks “Seeing in the Dark” and “Drift” one envisions the darkest Berlin club — an abandoned warehouse in a cold grey industrial neighbourhood, or a claustrophobic basement rave in a dilapidated building in Detroit— where night has long since switched over to morning, but the kids seem compelled to continue as long as the party allows them. Those tracks and the 7-minute “Melting” are perhaps the moodiest compositions on the album, driven by Houle’s subtle use of analogue synths and rumbling bass. Drift all but abandons the quirky use of 8-bit sounds that Houle seemed to love so much in his earlier releases, yet what is interesting with this album is that he has replaced those sounds with guitar. Opening song “Inside”, which we imagine would be an amazing track for driving on the Autobahn, as well as “Sweet”, “The Next”, and “Hammering”, feature processed guitar lines that hint at new wave and dark wave and are a great addition to his sound. By the album’s last track, “Hammering”, there seems to be some light in the grey winter, the sun has peeked its head after months of absence, and the old playful Houle peeks his head out as well, closing with a guitar-based track that is funky and jazzy and reminiscent of Tortoise. Drift is undoubtedly a cold and dark album, but Marc Houle is as hot and bright as ever. Check it.