The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

SMU professor Susanne Scholz in the West Bank in 2018.
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Pilotdrift impresses

It is an uncommon thing when a rock band releases anything original nowadays. It is even more uncommon when the source of originality happens to be the debut album from a band which hails from Texarkana. This is what makes “Water Sphere,” the debut LP from Pilotdrift, such an enjoyable listen.

The quintet, which consists of Kelly Carr, Jay Budzilowski, Ben Rice, Eric Russell and John David Blagg, have only been playing together for a few years, but the band sounds like a cohesive unit that’s been playing together for much longer than that. Indeed, most of them have known one another since adolescence.

Pilotdrift got its start with regional success but began to garner support after co-signing a self-released CD with Good Records, owned by Tim DeLaughter and Julie Doyle of The Polyphonic Spree. Pilotdrift began to play for larger and larger crowds and eventually gained further notoriety while supporting artists such as The Polyphonic Spree and Eisley.

But what does Pilotdrift sound like, exactly? The band’s sound is quite ambitious, embracing an experimental art-rock sound with sweeping orchestrations and atmospheric electronics. The album operates almost as a grab bag of styles, moods and feelings, encompassing everything from horror to romance. Carr’s vocals compliment the music well, proving that Carr has the range to fit the musical variety within and bring presence to the equally esoteric lyrics. Lyrically each song tells a story, but generally in more a narrative format as opposed to the traditional first person. The lyrics therefore seem more detached, but at the same time are elevated to a more epic level.

The album begins with “Caught in My Trap,” a track which wouldn’t sound out of place in Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” It’s a good opening, one that catches you off guard with its somewhat nonlinear structure. The next few tracks draw you in equally as well with the sci-fi/jazz nightclub sounds of “Bubblecraft” and the interesting, Asian sound of “Late Night in a Wax Museum.” The “Jekyll & Hyde Suite” is one of the highlights of the album, a 10-minute track that sounds like something out of a scary carnival. It feels as if the music itself is the schizophrenic Jekyll and Hyde, battling for who will gain dominance.

The second half of the album is equally interesting, implementing more percussion. This is most notable in “So Long,” which is an epic of a closing track and one that ends the album well with excellent drumming by Rice and sweeping vocals and strings.

Among their influences they list the Beatles, but what rock band doesn’t list the Beatles as one of their influences? In truth the band has a hard time drawing comparisons, but that doesn’t prevent people from trying. Radiohead is a common one, but in actuality they only sound like Radiohead insomuch as the fact that they, too, are undefinable. The band itself is fearful of comparison, as being viewed as a derivative of something else, but nothing on the album seems forced or contrived in order to make it original. The spectrum of sound on the album does indeed go everywhere, but in a precise — not a frenetic — manner.

The CD will be out Sept. 20. Pilotdrift has proven itself as going against the common trends towards catchy but ultimately soulless music, and they’re all the better for it.

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