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Pacific Drift

Wednesday, Sep 10 2003
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It's about time someone brought some shade to sunshine pop. Starting in the mid-'60s, this cheery, overproduced, California-bred subgenre allowed groups like the Association and the Turtles to deliver a drug-free version of psychedelia to the mainstream, and it eventually morphed into the monster that was '70s soft rock. It's a lot to redeem, but L.A.-based erstwhile hip hop producer Elvin Estella -- who records as Nobody -- pulls it off on his rich sophomore album, Pacific Drift. Drawing on both trip-hop opacity and his expert sampling skills, Estella re-narcotizes sunshine pop without smirking, keeping the overall mood light while warping the genre just enough to make it palatable to this jaded generation.

Estella distances himself from sunshine pop's sentimentality by eschewing the genre's reliance on sappy love songs; Pacific Drift is largely instrumental, and its outdoorsy titles touch on seasons and seashores rather than how "I" feel about "you." This allows him to trip on sunshine's sonic diversity, as he laces his understated funky beats and reliable bass lines with chiming keyboards, melodic feedback, and layers of naturalistic noise -- birds chirping, waves lapping, kids playing, the whole bit. Estella even retains sunshine pop's campy side with some nifty vocal covers. Among these, Chris Gunst (Beachwood Sparks) mewls wonderfully on Estella's noisy version of the Monkees' "Porpoise Song," while Jimmy Tamborello (The Postal Service) convincingly pulls off creepily stupid lyrics like "Your mouth's a constellation" on the murmuring Zombies tune "I Won't Hurt You."

To be sure, Pacific Drift isn't a perfect document. "Psilo-cycling (Trip 'Round the Block)" proves as aimlessly wandering as its title implies, and the organ-and-clavinet-soaked "Headspace" comes off as a bit ponderous. But these don't eclipse Estella's overall accomplishment: This Nobody has made sunshine pop that you don't need shades to enjoy.

About The Author

Ron Nachmann

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