The-Drum, "Contact"
The-Drum, "Contact" (Courtesy)
It sounds like The-Drum is over mimicking The-Dream. R&B and easily identifiable song structure are out, and amorphous electronic landscapes are in.

After a robo voice signals us that systems are online, we're in an echo chamber of synths, with a booming and snapping beat that is so unpredictable you can only barely call it that. Everything that follows on Contact is equally surprising, though not particularly exciting. A little steel drum-like pattering here, a shuffling maraca there, organ sounds to back it up and synthy nonsense voices to provide something close to a melody, but not quite. The overall effect is hypnosis. The rhythms might not ever hold steady and the ambient sounds are constantly shifting, but it all hangs together.

As a landscape, it's a futuristic and dystopian one. It's like an image of cold, digital dismay that someone would predict decades ago (while playing with the synthy sounds on a Casio keyboard). In fact, everything sounds distinctly old, like the duo went back to the ‘90s to record a record for 2013. Yes, there are 8-bit flourishes on “SimStem B” and those electronic nonsense vocals play prominently on tracks like “Arcadia” and “Sense Net.”

Hooks be damned. That's not how The-Drum is going to lure anyone into Contact. There's no logical rationale for listening to the entire hour of music, but suddenly it's over, and you've done it and enjoyed it, though maybe you can't remember all of it. It really is hypnotic music. (Hopefully you don't do anything embarrassing.)