Rat-drifting is based in Toronto, Canada. These recordings do not reflect the activities of a community. Rather they are a non-systematic radiation of the skewed musical interventions of a loose collection of friends or friends-of-friends-of-friends (sometimes close, sometimes vicarious, sometimes hypothetical).
Rat-drifting takes its name from the colloquial term "rat-running." Rat-running is the practice of driving through residential side streets to avoid congested main roads. It's a happy metaphor for a kind of music-making: it has all that off-the-beaten-track stuff going for it but, more significantly, it suggests taking an activity to a place where it isn't intended, using something in a way it isn't meant for, unintentionally disturbing someplace comfortable (the disturbance being merely a by-product of an activity that has another set of preoccupations). It also has the completely undesirable connotation of someone trying anything to get to a destination more quickly. This idea of being highly motivated to reach a goal has nothing in common with Rat-drifting music; thus, we're drifting not running.
Rat-drifting does not embrace a musical style, a methodology, or any general preference for certain musical materials. It does embrace a sensibility—the music drifts, it doesn't run. But if there is a kind of insidious slackness to a lot of the music, it is not about slackness. If the music is rife with references to other musics, it is not about those references (the associations inadvertently spill around—from lovesick roots ballads with The silt to post-punk electro with the Guayaveras to psychedelic lounge music meeting late 14th century polyphony with Marmots to some kind of non-existent traditional folk music with the Draperies). The music doesn't run: it's not attempting to reach a prescribed goal, dragging a passive listener along for the ride.
Rat-drifting music searches for specificity, celebrates detail. It experiments with radical particularity and wonders about the possibilities and potentials of those experiments. If the music drifts, it does so in the hopes that the listener drifts with it—her/his imagination experimenting with the possibilities of the music as well, as they find their own route through their own experience.
Rat-drifting and other related activities in and around Toronto can be accessed by joining the Soundlist. Go to: https://listserv.yorku.ca/cgi-bin/wa?SUBED1=soundlist&A=1