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Iter Facere

Imagine if you will, a small bar in a small town somewhere in north Texas. Now, pretend you're sitting there by the merch booth and you see a group of five rosy-cheeked young boys, barely drinking age, walk in. They walk up to you and tell you that they are from Texarkana, they have a band that's been around for a little less than a year, and that this is going to be their tenth show. What would your expectations be? Would you be tempted to smile and nod and pat them on the head? "Run along, little laddies, let's see what you have for us today." I wouldn't blame you if you did. I made the exact same mistake. I foolishly assumed that young + new = amateur. Oh no. With one brief 40-minute set, Pilotdrift proved me wrong.

This isn't a live review, I know, but you have to understand that Pilotdrift aren't a fluke. These guys didn't just stumble upon a well-known producer and piggyback on that person's talent. In fact, their debut LP Iter Facere was performed, recorded, produced, and mastered by the boys themselves. When I say these kids are the genuine article, I mean it.

The album, at 13 tracks and running just over an hour in length, is an ambitious first project, but well within their capabilities. About as exquisitely produced as a self-released debut can be, these guys are as adept behind the booth as they are in front of it. Crafting songs of sprawling beauty, Pilotdrift borrows elements from many and varied musical acts without actually imitating anyone in particular. They seem to share Muse's love for epic melodrama, and Elbow's knack for creating "tragic magic," while their lush instrumentation and floating tenderness is reminiscent of Mercury Rev. Their adventurous, nostalgic narrative and tasteful use of such novelty instruments as the accordion and the banjo gives a nod towards the Decemberists. Whatever influences you may hear, they are fleeting and subtle; when it comes down to it, Pilotdrift sounds like themselves.

Iter Facere, meaning "to make a journey" in Latin, perfectly suits this musical endeavor. The album starts with the very theatrical, haunting, dark, and yet somehow inviting "Caught In My Trap", a story of a deceptive predator who preys upon those who try to care for him. Layers of keyboards, strings, guitars, and percussion surround and enfold dangerously evocative vocals, drawing the listener inescapably into its net. From there, it carries its captive audience through a landscape of diverse mood and time, including drastic, feverish peaks such as the epic nautical ballad "Elephant Island" - probably the best candidate for becoming the album's single - to softer, more tender territory like "Winter." It winds through mesmerizing, sultry tracks like "Rings of Symbols" to more playful, doting love songs such as "Dancing Bear", finally ending up with the galloping, triumphant "So Long," which feels like coming up over a peak and seeing the sun burst out in front of you. The entire experience is exhilarating, and far more sophisticated than you'd expect from a band so young. Without a doubt, Pilotdrift's Iter Facere is definitely a journey worth taking.

-Emily Strong

Track list:
1. Caught in My Trap
2. Picturesque
3. Elephant Island
4. Sails
5. Winter
6. Rings of Symbols
7. The Meaningless Words of Bobby Baker
8. Doom and Despair
9. Dancing Bear
10. Science and Enlightenment
11. The Undiscovered Epic of Walter Champion
12. A Traitor's Brain
13. So Long

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