Ford has always had an ear for complex, wobbly rhythms, but US Drag takes his peculiar drums to a new level of abstraction. With that comes a more stripped-down sound palette and lots of negative space. The album savours odd notes and textures. The instrumentation is Pronsato's usual mix of hard-to-place sounds—rustles, claps, soft drums—but with a particular focus on bells, which leads to a more stripped-down sound palette than usual.
US Drag still holds close to the wide-panning drums, reverb trails and minuscule sound effects for which Bruno Pronsato records are known. There's enough detail here to seduce longtime fans. On the jazzy "Bang," a catchy bassline bounces around in the depths. "Brighter Than Her Daughter," whose drums are peripheral (as is a distant vocal from Liars' Angus Andrew), looks back to Ford's classic microhouse material. It gestures to melody, but stops short of spelling it out.
Even as US Drag uses microhouse tools—fussy sampling, wide-open arrangements—it does away with the genre's outmoded aspects. Instead of droning repetition, there are bold strokes like the chimes on "She's Moved" or the IDM-inspired "These Brides," which recalls the deranged musicality of Aphex Twin's Syro. But in moving beyond minimal house, Ford's ideas—particularly the meandering melodies—also require patience. There are few of the club-ready payoffs of his more well-known tracks, like "The Make Up The Break Up" or "At Home I'm A Tourist," which means the album can drag at points.
US Drag is a lateral move away from the dance floor sound of Ford's past that keeps its unique sense of groove. You could play these tracks in a set, but that doesn't feel like what they're designed for. They burst at the seams with ideas from modern classical and experimental electronic music, all fed through the woodchipper of Ford's fragmented songwriting. US Drag is a fresh perspective on Bruno Pronsato that keeps intact the best aspects of his music, proving that Ford's singular project still has a lot left to give.