Secret Meeting score: 85
by Phil Scarisbrick
Former Talk Talk man, Paul Webb, has waited a long time to release his first solo record. Under the pseudonym of Rustin Man, he’s released one record previously. But that was an underrated collaboration with Portishead’s Beth Gibbons, Out of Season, some seventeen years ago. There is good reason for Webb to take so long creating Drift Code though. He wanted to play all the instruments himself. The only issue was that when he started writing the record, he couldn’t actually play all the instruments he wanted to include. This meant that the intricate arrangements that he composed grew organically from cocooned beginnings, before becoming a vibrant, colourful thing of beauty. And believe me, it really is a thing a of beauty.
Opening track, Vanishing Heart, has a feel not dissimilar to that of David Bowie’s final masterpiece: Blackstar. The metronomic, looping piano riff lies under Webb’s callused yet warm vocal as the newly mastered instruments build around them. The Bowie-isms don’t end there though, with the free jazz that stylistically framed his final album appearing intermittently throughout this album. Brings Me Joy starts off sounding like The Divine Comedy, before a lone, female backing-vocal adds an emotional sucker punch. These carefully-crafted tones are deeply affecting and fully justify the care Webb has given them.
Euphonium Dream sounds like something you’d imagine soundtracking Cocteauvian cinema. The lone instrument proves that when used correctly, less really is more. Light the Light has a jovial spring to it- Webb’s voice changing cadence to create a real sense of theatre.
The meticulous nature with which he has created the record has allowed Webb to produce something that sounds timeless. Despite a feeling of vulnerability, you also get the sense that our narrator has taken and absorbed everything the world has to throw at him and is still standing. Whether this world is the one we inhabit or the one in Webb’s mind isn’t clear, but the thirty-seven minutes we spend there are jarringly wonderful.