Seventeen years separate Rustin Man's 2002 debut album Out of Season and its follow-up, but in the best possible way, Drift Code sounds like it took a lifetime to make. In some respects, it did. After Out of Season's release, Rustin Man's Paul Webb spent time raising his family and turning an old barn into his home and the studio where he painstakingly created the songs that became Drift Code. Working with drummer Lee Harris -- a lifelong friend and member of his other bands, Talk Talk and .O.rang -- Webb recorded each instrument with a number of microphone placements that allowed him to take his pick of imaginary "rooms" when he put the songs together. This intricate process deepens the cloistered, strangely timeless feel that Out of Season introduced, but as gorgeous as that album's blend of Beth Gibbons' vocals and Webb's arrangements was, Drift Code feels like the true introduction to Rustin Man. This is the first set of songs Webb wrote for his own voice, and what a voice it is: Weathered, tremulous yet surprisingly versatile, it's as if the years it took for Drift Code to come to fruition shaped his vocals into the perfect instrument for its contemplative songs. The patina to his voice when he sings about timeless subjects -- loss, mortality, good and evil -- makes Drift Code's poignancy all the more genuine. "Vanishing Heart" gives equal weight to the feelings of sorrow and liberation accompanying the end of a loveless relationship, while "Our Tomorrows" and the standout "Brings Me Joy" capture how things grow sweeter as they near their ends. Drift Code's music is just as complex as its characters and moods. The way Webb blends folk, jazz, classic vocal pop, psych and prog (there's a distant echo of Jethro Tull's "Locomotive Breath" hiding within "Judgement Train"'s tale of a man who tries to cheat the devil) in combinations that are elegant but too strange to be tasteful echoes latter-day Talk Talk, but there's a rustic eccentricity to songs such as "Light the Light" and "Martian Garden" that makes this album singular even within his body of work. Well worth the wait, Drift Code is the sound of an artist coming into his own on his own time.
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares