Today, Baltimore/D.C. post-rock outfit Pianos Become The Teeth have released their fifth studio album, ‘Drift’ via Epitaph Records. As the follow up to 2018’s Wait For Love, Drift balances inherent aggression with delicate atmospheric moments and poetic-yet-purposefully ambiguous lyrics.
“Everything for me on this record is so personal and so specific even if people have no idea what I’m talking about,” vocalist Kyle Durfey explains. “I know it’s asking for a lot but I just hope that people sit and listen to the record as a whole because to me this record is like one piece. It’s not individual songs, it’s a journey and then you come out of it.”
Innovation and experimentation are themes that Pianos Become The Teeth have embraced liberally since their inception in 2006, leading up to their most masterful work yet. Many of the tracks within Drift were recorded through to a 1960’s Echoplex analog tape echo and at moments throughout the album, it was physically manipulated and warped to produce unique sonics that seamlessly elevates the listening experience. You can hear some of the delays get pushed to the edge of falling apart before they disappear and the song snaps back to reality.
There is a sense of mystique and familiarity on the album, assisted by producer Kevin Bernsten (Integrity, Pig Destroyer) who recorded their first two projects over a decade ago. Bernsten’s history with the band allowed him to push them toward the future without abandoning their past. Kyle Durfey reflects, “Kevin knows who we used to be and he knows who we are now and he was really down to experiment and try anything in the studio to see how it would work.”
The Baltimore, D.C., five-piece—which also features guitarists Mike York and Chad McDonald, bassist Zac Sewell and drummer David Haik—originally started out as a screamo band and gained an enthusiastic fanbase via 2009’s Old Pride and 2011’s The Lack Long After. However shortly afterward Durfey stopped screaming and the band transitioned into a post-rock act who expanded their sound on 2014’s Keep You and 2018’s Wait For Love. Drift is the culmination of the band’s penchant for redefining and transcending their sound and it does so in a way that stays true to their artistic and aesthetic vision.
Less than five minutes long, the album’s first single “Genevieve” feels like it goes through countless gradients as the tempo almost imperceptibly builds from a spacious ballad to an explosive anthem. Simultaneously the song sees frontman Kyle Durfey questioning his self-worth via his poetic lyrics, which he prefers to keep ambiguous in order for the listeners to not have any preconceived notions about his imagery. From being just close enough to watch things slip away on “The Tricks” to likening himself to “flood damage in the dark” on the minimalist, Portishead-inspired ballad “Skiv,” Drift’s lyrics mirror the moody nature of the music, both of which sometimes need multiple listens to decipher. “I refer to a song like ‘Buckley’ as “heavy blue” because there are heavy parts in there but they are really deliberate,” Durfey says. Pianos Become The Teeth started out touring alongside peers like Touché Amoré and La Dispute—and although their sound has shifted over the years, the inherent aggression is still there on “Hate Chase” or lurking just under the surface of cinematic soundscapes such as “Mouth.” However maybe most impressive is the fact that the band’s virtuosic musicianship and collective ambition keeps any singular moment not only from sounding out of place, but making it hard to imagine the songs any other way.