Release Date: Mar 18, 2016
Record label: Felte
Genre(s): Electronic, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock, Indie Electronic
With his previous project ERAAS, Robert Toher's music often seemed caught between the post-rock of his first band, Apse, and something -- or somewhere -- harder to define and more interesting. Toher reaches that destination with Public Memory, a name that perfectly captures the almost subliminal, otherworldly-yet-familiar territory he's working in. Made with little more than a Korg MS-20, guitar, and field recordings, Wuthering Drum's pared-down instrumentation allows Toher the freedom to combine more diverse elements into an even more singular sound.
Public Memory is the solo nom de plume of Robert Toher, a Brooklyn-based musician who formerly served time as a member of Eraas and Apse. While those projects blurred the edges of rambling space rock and synthy post-punk, Public Memory dives headlong down the electronic darkwave rabbit hole, exploring a Korg-constructed sonic palette that weaves together a variety of primitive beats, delicately employed samples (bells, chimes, the weeping of ghosts), and woozy electronics that sound as if they might have been recorded at the bottom of a lake. Created over the course of a year while Toher was temporarily decamped in Los Angeles, Wuthering Drum is a work of restrained gloom—a remarkably textured electronic record whose minimalist tendencies keep it from collapsing under the weight of its own moribund aesthetic.
Wuthering Drum is a moody, cinematic collection of ambient electronic music by Brooklyn-based Public Memory. Bass synth droning throughout, most tracks take a foundation of low-tempo garage breaks and add a flourish of grungy, modal chords changes and gothic, Yorke-esque vocals. While relatively restricted and one-note throughout, the homemade feel of the result—with its hazy mix of dirty, live drums and samples—preserves its originality.
Discombobulation – that’s the effect ERAAS’ Robert Toher, aka Public Memory is aiming for on his solo debut; a suite of dislocated beats sweeping across a canvas of maudlin, minimalistic electronica like car headlights, each vocal fragile, and gossamer (Brooklyn-based, Toher temporarily transplanted himself to LA to record the album; as such, it successfully imparts the tone of chilly displacement). Which isn’t to say that there isn’t plenty going on beneath the surface; as singles Lunar and Zig Zag demonstrate, the mood is underpinned by arcs of nuanced musicality, from the quirky percussive touches through to each coy Korg inflection. And yet as a proposition, Wuthering Dream all too frequently gets lost in its own subtleties – a channelling of texture that takes precedence over impact and immediacy; with the vocals so insubstantial, it becomes less a statement as a lost photograph, pulled along the sidewalk by the breeze.
Robert Toher’s Public Memory layers wispy, trebly vocals over ominous beats, using a small selection of instruments – a Korg MS20 Synthesizer, guitars and recorded sounds—to conjure brooding, looming, otherworldly atmospheres and deliberate, ritual forward motion. As in his guitar-driven post-rock outfit Apse and the more ambient, electronic ERAAS, rhythm is a critical underpinning. These cuts slink elegantly on nocturnal, Massive Attack-esque beats too slow for dance, but steady enough to suggest persistence, effort and movement through time.