Review: Joe Bedell-Brill – Drifters

“We could be two drifters let the seasons shift us til we need to rest.” Drift, a collection of three tracks of electronic music released by Joe Bedell-Brill, a recent Oxford English graduate, featuring current English student Natasha Heliotis, evokes the places that love affairs are conducted in and through — parks, trains and evenings — while also attempting to capture their transience, their drift.

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The first track, ‘Drifters’ falls somewhere inbetween Metronomy and the XX, but flirts too with synth pop. A pared back electronic arrangement with a strong rhythmic drum track backs a poppy chorus where Heliotis’ excellent female lead vocals are nicely enhanced by the introduction of the subdued male backing of Bedell-Brill. The central hook is a dreamy lyric, ‘If you want to come with me / I will take you places / tired eyes and faces’. The sum makes for a genuinely catchy pop song which finishes with an excellent 80s era synth solo as the track slowly fades out.

‘Like a Load’, the second number, is a largely instrumental track that starts with an eery echo vocal, followed by a combination of synth and percussion. This time the brass effect gives it a different atmosphere, the music moving in tandem with the lyrics to a place less pop and more gospel, “We’ll carry you up like a load / And wipe the dust off from the road / Cradled in arms of stone / And four walls to build your home”. The song is laid-back and soulful with intermittent crescendos providing moments of euphoria.

‘Thousand words’ is perhaps the most ambitious part of the piece. Singing is abandoned for a sort of gregorian chant superimposed on a regular percussion. The prose poem that is read is a stream of consciousness of selected moments of a love affair, intense images of everyday lyricism, from “I’ll try to dream of you under kaleidoscope meshes of fabric bodies lifted and wilted and wound” to “thoughts of love among the thoughts of flying insects sex and meshed hummus on plastic”.

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Most listeners may well be drawn principally to ‘Drifters’, the first track, where Heliotis’ excellent singing (honed as a singer in DFO, where Bedell-Brill was drummer) and the catchiness of the chorus combine to create an excellent pop song. But the EP is most striking when listened to in full: where the almost religious lift of ‘Like a Load’ is put in contrast with the spontaneous and earthy reality described in ‘Thousand Words’. An intelligent and ambitious piece of electronic music excellently produced, Drift makes a powerful case for listening to more music by students at Oxford.