Reviewed by: Ziggy Merritt
I’ve mused before on how I have little idea what I’m talking about when it comes to electronic music. Yet while there is still some debate on whether I’m being immodest or pretentious it has, in one form or the next, remained a personal favorite choice. Textures and layering both have a central role to play in the construction of a great album of electronic music, but then like all music so too does emotion. With emotion and as a consequence, empathy, there is room for artists to bridge the gap in understanding and bring in an audience that can visualize their intentions. In the debut from the solo project known as Public Memory, Brooklyn-based Robert Toher has created an album lost in a deep fog of melancholy and intensity, yet keeps the listener above despair and entertained.
The album, Wuthering Drum, is a willful journey into someplace desolate and dark. Elements of hip-hop and darkwave move alongside each other as they help to visualize the setting Toher has attempted to conjure. The two lead singles from this, “Lunar” and “Ringleader”, do well to sample the best of his talents in this regard.
Bells, chimes, and an often hypnotic rhythm propel both tracks. “Ringleader” takes the lead in sinister intention, something carefully rendered by Toher’s own echoey vocals. A buzzing intensity and the brief layer of darkwave guitar give life and body to the track making the eventual finish all too sudden. The fitting close to Wuthering Drum, “Lunar”, provides the single, briefest shade of warmth found throughout. The looping sound of chimes alongside the slow, steady percussion aides Toher whose vocals are now much more pronounced and direct. There’s a sense of positivity here, however small, that goes largely absent throughout.
Outside of this, both “Heir” and “Domino” provide technically impressive layering that utilize much of the same intensity along with effects that have already been previewed. What remains then is mired in much of the funereal proceedings that Toher has already imposed. There’s a withering sense of dread that is hard to remove going into successive tracks such as “Cul De Sac” or “Earwig.” While this should never be taken as anything negative, the expectations raised by everything else eventually inured me to these effects. Wuthering Drum still remains an impressive debut, showing an artist able to make the darkness inviting.