It's not often that a band is able to truly defy convention, to defy the pigeon-holing that reviewers such as myself have been doing for years. It's much easier when bands fit in a box, capable of being named and classified -- but it's much more fulfilling when they don't.
The music of Brass' Set & Drift has an almost theatrical feel, due in large part to the larger-than-life vocals of singer Joe Webber. Webber's booming baritone is as captivating as the guitars that cut and swell below him; each of the five pieces that make up Brass' sound offers something strong. Each of the album's eight songs is fluid and powerful; the band and the album as a whole are both the sum of their parts.
"Autumn Hex Signs" starts out almost entirely focused on Webber -- the guitars and drums rhythmically buzz below him, not exploding until Webber himself lets loose and shows the power of his cords. It seems almost effortless for him as his vocals boom without much effort -- they rise and fall in a moment's notice while the clean chord progressions create a whirlwind of sound. That's the theatrical nature of the band -- their ability to create what seem like multiple, equally engrossing portions of a song, before the gripping climax.
Brass have equal strength during the album's more reserved moments. "The Sky Electric" is slowly guided along by rolling drum fills and twinkling guitars; it's up to Webber to guide the direction, though, a task he's more than up for. Beautifully drawing out almost every syllable, Webber's voice sounds so strong and assured that everything else just falls into place. The band stays away from a typical verse-chorus-verse structure, so the album flows much more naturally as a whole. The brash and chaotic ending of "Separate Bodies" leads well into the guitar-driven "Fossils."
Every decision made by the band is perfect not only for the individual songs, but for the album.
Leave it to Webber, though, to so eloquently put the album to context in one of the band's own songs:
Out here in the open there play palms in the rising tide like lines of a poem.