Rustin Man: Drift Code (Domino)

The first album in seventeen years from the Talk Talk alumnus is well worth the wait

Released Feb 1st, 2019 via Domino / By Norman Miller
Rustin Man: Drift Code (Domino) Former Talk Talk bassist Paul Webb reawakens his Rustin Man persona to fantastic effect on his second album under the name – 17 years after the superb Out Of Season collaboration with Beth Gibbons of Portishead.

Working in a rural Essex setting from a converted barn, Webb has painstakingly worked up raw demos into nine distinctive glistening jewels of musical shimmer. Most of the instruments he plays himself, building up each track the way Mike Oldfield once did with Tubular Bells, helped out mainly by local orchestral players plus old pals like Talk Talk drummer Lee Harris.

You know you're in the presence of something special right from the magnificent first line of the opening Vanishing Heart that, over gorgeous languidly melancholic guitar, asks “Is that a mockingbird inside your lying heart of stone?” Cue a move into crooning harmonies, an impressive guitar solo, splashes of brass and trippy 60s keyboard create an amalgam somewhere between early Elbow and Mark Lanegan.

Webb's vocal delivery stands out too, somewhere between Bowie's Sarf-East accented early vocals and the gruff sincerity of someone like Peter Hammill – the latter on tracks like the closing All Summer – beautiful melancholia, simple instrumentation, gruffly sincere not quite tuneful vocal.

But the distinctive style and sound of every track conjures a plethora of other echoes. The captivating Our Tomorrows comes over like late 60s/early 70s US West Coast folk-tinged pop passed through a filter of fey Englishness. The latter vibe reappears on Martian Garden, which sounds a bit like Peter Gabriel-led early Genesis Peter Gabriel shot through with vintage psychedelia.

The two instrumental tracks – Brings Me Joy and Euphonium Dream – are clever but, compared to other tracks, a bit makeweight, though there's enjoyment in the funeral parlour organ weepiness of the former and the moody keyboard wheeze of the latter.

For wit, the slow rollock of the darkly catchy Judgement Train stands out. Described by Webb as “the Marx Brothers in a musical version of Apocalypse Now”, it chronicles a chancer dude playing poker with God on a train, confident he can outwit God to win his place in Heaven. Tom Waits would like it.

Webb's delightfully off-kilter vocal lends an air of Everyman sincerity to the sweetly mournful The World’s In Town, livened by hopeful lyrics as he tells us how “My mind is expanding over rivers and fields, wanting more... I'm part of the Milky Way”.

Angular piano, little synth surges and staccato vocal provides perfect contrast on Light The Light with its dashes of funky brass, showing the sense that this album has been constructed to be played in a sequence. But however you decide to play it, this is an album of masterful songwriting and musicianship to treasure. 5/5