Trench Coast - Drinks (Album Review)

Throughout history, the juxtaposition of maximalism and minimalism has been a fundamental theme of the human experience. From the rhythmic transition between night and day to the structured competition of sports, the theme of polarity weaves into the very fabric of our existence. On their debut album, Drinks, Berlin-based electronic producer Trench Coast collides minimalist and maximalist intentions through oneiric synths, precision drum programming, and unwavering bass lines. 

Trench Coast is the pseudonym of Richard Fritzsche, who operated as one-half of the duo Trains on Fire until the group disbanded earlier this year. Trench Coast is a more challenging affair and mostly forgoes vocals in favour of abstract electronic pieces that, on first listen, appear exploratory, though repeated listening reveals how Fritzsche constructed the album with thought, passion, and attention to detail.  

Not all tracks are as accessible as the opening "Dau Sarriv", which harmonises cascading bass and piano lines over icy synths, nor are they as hallucinatory as the trippy synths, funky bassline and blossoming drums of "Packs", which is helped along by indifferent, somewhat intoxicated sounding vocals. 

The consistently driving rhythm of "Tonato Augusto" is contrasted with loose synth lines that mostly evade form and set tone. The track has some acidity but is more pleasant than "Boris Bay", which drives home a sense of horror in its disquieting melodies and industrial-leaning instrumentation. 

This esotericism doesn't always work, like on the dark-corridor vibe of the title track, which is unsettling but with little pay-off, or the rather aimless and blocky construction of "The Human Megabyte", which plays more like soundtrack music than the other songs here. 

In contrast, "Vallies" is proudly synth-wave and an ultimately more major key affair, that is, until Fritzsche turns to a more off-kilter atmosphere via discordant notes. The more steadfastly beauteous "Melibu" mixes dancefloor persistence with sedative bass, while the closing track, "None of Your Theories Work", one of the two tracks on the album which feature vocals, is an apt album closer, wrapping up proceedings with a more personable and emotionally coherent moment. 

Trench Coast is mostly inscrutable across Drinks, keeping the listener at arm's length with cold and sinisterly cryptic exercises in freeform sonic worldbuilding. Thankfully, this approach has delivered an album of strangely enticing music that can prompt imagistic responses from the listener, not all of which are peachy, but which can offer more piquant flavours to those with a sophisticated palette.