In All that Drifts from Summit Down, the first full-length album by the minimalist rock, New Zealand based duo, A Dead Forest Index, is a definite downer.
Guitarist and lead vocalist Adam Sherry has an extremely unique and otherworldly voice that often fluctuates between male and female tones. While in the album’s opening track, “Title Walks,” Sherry sounds distinctly masculine, even hitting low drones in the refrain, he sounds particularly feminine in “In Greyness the Water,” which contrasts nicely against the rumbling, almost tribal percussion and aggressive guitar that accompany him.
Unfortunately, “In Greyness the Water” is the only song on this record that is truly distinct from any of the other twelve tracks. While the focus of the duo’s music is understandably centered around Sherry’s adaptive voice, the minimalistic instrumental accompaniment almost detracts from the utterly unique vocals. While the only accompaniment in “Upon Dark Hills,” the second-to-last song on the record, is composed of a series of connected whole notes on a synthesizer, which breaks the piano and guitar mold that governs the rest of the record, the track is tonally sparse and ultimately forgettable.
Moreover, tracks such as “Myth Retraced” and “Upon Dark Hills” actually showcase the album’s minimalistic accompaniment, which tasks the listener with trekking through a minute or two of dreary two-tone quarter and whole note progressions without the solace of Sherry’s harmonious vocals.
The similarly minimalistic nature of the lyrics in this album is also detrimental to the overall palatability of the record as a whole. “Cast of Lines,” for instance, features the phrase “a fog upon the sea at night” ten times over a three minute run-time. Similarly, “Myth Retraced” features the word “shadow” seven times over an almost four minute run-time without any context. As many of the tracks on this record are composed with similar repetitive phrasing, lacking in context and meaning, even Sherry’s unique vocal acrobatics cannot save the album from its own tedium.
All that Drifts from Summit Down has potential, but the depressing nature of the dull, repetitive lyrics and similarly constructed instrumental accompaniment will likely leave you with a dreary taste in your mouth. Yet “In Greyness the Water” provides some hope for A Dead Forest Index’s potential though the improved showcase of Sherry’s ethereal vocals and minimalist yet developed instrumental accompaniment. Ultimately, however, it will take some time before ADFI joins the minimalist rock hall of fame with the likes of Logh and Shellac.