06.04.2012, Words by Ruth Saxelby

Introducing the thrilling Ballardian R&B of The-Drum

Sensuality and dissonance meet with hypnotic results on Chicago duo's 'Heavy Liquid' EP.

Sometimes a really good record can slip through the net. The-Drum’s ‘Heavy Liquid’ EP, released at the end of January, is such a record. It landed in the Dummy office on Monday, wrapped in layers of bubble wrap and tape, sent all the way from Connecticut by new Dummy contributor Paul Stigliano. We liked it so much we asked Paul to tell us more.

With R&B production work for an aspiring vocalist as the spark for their initial collaboration, Chicago musicians Jeremiah Chrome and Brandon Boom began working together as The-Drum at the tail end of 2010. Thankfully, while that initial project never bore fruit, a more personal, creative partnership bloomed from its foundering. The duo found their voice and began producing tracks that showcased their own refined strain of R&B; a smooth hybrid of ominous, chopped vocal samples, synths, and deep bellowing bass.

Listening to the early tracks they used to promote the project, a few of which ended up on their recent ‘Heavy Liquid’ EP, it isn’t hard to see what attracted Portland, Oregon label, Audraglint to snap the duo up. From the outset, ‘Heavy Liquid’ slips in and out of consciousness in the most delightful of ways, moving through humid and occasionally disquieting atmospheres with an impressive fluidity. Chrome and Boom cull from the sensuality, euphoria, and release of R&B’s rich palette to seamlessly disarm the tension some of the EP’s more foreboding and dissonant passages create.

While the work is both aurally and emotionally cohesive, there are still standout tracks that merit individual mention. A-side cut Icy Tropics and Night Drive on the B-side both stand as overwhelmingly affecting pieces even when removed from the whole. The former employs a disembodied vocal track and a haunting melody, while the latter plays to the duo’s strengths with a killer synth feature that drops a little less than halfway through the track’s runtime. The hypnotic qualities each of them possesses make for effortlessly addictive listening.

‘Heavy Liquid’ closes with a macabre monologue from Crash, a short film Harley Cokliss created in the 1970s for the BBC. The film was based on J. G. Ballard’s short story of the same name, controversial for its depiction of car-crash sexual fetishism. Although the EP isn’t built around Ballard’s prose, it’s easy to see how the dynamic of sex and violence in his words would find a natural home within the juxtaposition of vulnerable sensuality and industrial dissonance that The-Drum’s sound evokes.

I contacted Chrome to ask about the sample and Ballard’s influence: “I’ve been a big fan of J.G. Ballard for a long time now. In fact, there was about two years where the only thing I read was his collection of short stories over and over.”

“I had been interested in incorporating some Ballard imagery and themes into the EP. I showed Brandon a couple other things but we immediately agreed that Crash was the thing to sample.”

It’s those instincts and intuitions that make The-Drum artists worth keeping a close eye on. The woozy, sleepy-slow sound of ‘Heavy Liquid’ make it one of this year’s most exceptional releases so far, and with a full length as well as two additional EPs and a 12” planned, it’s thrilling to think that we may have yet to see the duo’s high-water mark for 2012.

Audraglint released The-Drum’s ‘Heavy Liquid’ EP on 31st January 2012 (buy it here)

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