Debut albums often combine a collage of songs written and collected over a period of time, stitched together with the eagerness of infancy and the latitude to dream big, a first record can be anything it wants to be. Here in 2020, after many years of building the mechanics through endless streams of touring and music releases, Taunton’s October Drift finally have a full body of work to share, their debut long-player entitled Forever Whatever. A record which sits new and seminal pennings side-by-side in a way that cohesively joins eras together, as well as in the same breath forming an end product that bears the fingerprints of polished proficiency. So whether already acquainted or just initiated, the record has takeaways for every listener.
As a cumulative work, Forever Whatever reframes existing favourites like ‘Cherry Red,’ ‘Cinnamon Girl‘ and ‘Losing My Touch‘ via bold, refreshing means, delivering familiarity in spades with added oomph. The band’s investment in these tracks is felt, the production has been rewired to fit the album’s heady intensity: the fills are bigger, the guitars rage heavier, the dynamics become more exaggerated and the atmospheric tendencies are milked. The album tracks swell with vigour mixing well with the band’s esteemed back catalogue, the repurposed songs sound just as fragrant as they did in their original form bridging soaring highs against fuzzy energetics and pensive balladry. Another track that has stood the test of time, ‘Don’t Give Me Hope‘ makes its debut in recorded form, in this iteration (some might be aware this song has travelled across the years and the members’ past musical projects), igniting a similar response as it does when played live, its emotive essence strikes a chord between rousing and meditative.
The album features an array of pre-release singles, including ‘Oh the Silence‘ and the titular ‘Forever Whatever.’ Both tracks sizzle in abundance, offering the very best of October Drift’s poetic allure intertwined with melodic roars of distortion and intriguing nuance. Particularly interesting is the torchbearing qualities of ‘Forever Whatever’—a song which carries whispers of grunge and shoegaze, and marries the tropes in succinct synchronicity to create sugary honeymoon relief. The central soliloquy ponders various aspects of human emotion in order to find greater meaning that is perpetually illusive, figuring endurance outweighs capacity, the mind concludes further contented than it started.
Deeper within the album, ‘Just Got Caught‘ showcases the band’s developing musical language displaying a broader textural soundscape and gruelling tempo, languid reverb-soaked guitar challenges the chaos and conflict of a wavering mind, building and breaking down changes in rhythmic pace, presentation and punctuation. ‘Milky Blue‘ is full of softer hues like its lyrics convey, while unusually low key for October Drift, it once more echoes the sonic developments taking root in this album. Verging on twee as it falls on the indie side of rock, a spright pep of percussion and bass compete for central hook line with a boppy lead guitar enjoying a fully fruitful melodic surge.
‘Naked‘ is the star of the show. An out-and-out ballad in the key of The National with a pinch of Biffy Clyro. Sparsely arranged, the song is orchestrated by strings and simple acoustics joined only in duet by the rapturous, raw voice of Kiran Roy and Chris Holmes on backing vocals. The track’s themes summarise the album in a definitive swoop, consumed in a depression of apathy and lethargy it seems fairly cut and dry how the protagonist is feeling but quickly these ideas fill with clarity and swirl in feelings of hopefulness and potential, charging out of the black and rising towards unbridled optimism. An example of how October Drift use open dialogue very instinctually to fathom the greyer areas of existence.
Closing out the album, ‘The Past‘ lingers pensively before ensuing into another rhythmic, sprawling exchange. This, once more, is October Drift triggering an enigmatic reveal impacting the album’s sequencing, a staple end of set climatic turned gigantic by studio programming and stacked tumult. A heady resolve to wrap up proceedings.
One’s summation of the album grows upon each listen, at face value it’s easy to simply boil the brooding vocals, growling angst and ear-splitting, pedal-heavy instrumentation into the confines of a simple genre or time period. But October Drift manage to navigate the overcrowded shores of post-punk and shoegaze by sculpting a sound and space of their own, with a lyrical heartbeat that is as honest as it is engrossing and adamantly formidable, notes of pop-inflected immediacy is conveyed hand-in-hand with engaging dissonance and orchestral cacophony. Speaking in a personal light songwriter Kiran Roy expresses feelings of fear, inadequacy, existentialism and loneliness, all the while the songs never lack a hint of hope or positivity, nor do they feel intangible or distant. They speak of human experience in a broader sense, transfering universal meaning and relevance along the way.
If this album teaches one thing it’s the power to endure, whether taken literally or metaphorically, in a larger respect or simply just, song by song. The intensity of feeling, the intensity of playing, the intensity of movement, it’s all there to drill home a message. A personal message for each listener, maybe one of hope, maybe peace, understanding, catharsis, or even just enjoyment but if it leads to action and fulfills a purpose beyond the band’s orbit then surely that’s the profundity of music in a nutshell.
Forever Whatever is set for release on Friday 24th January via Physical Education Recordings. The album is available to pre-order on various formats here.