As I write this, the USA is having an election, in case you haven’t heard. For someone like me, these quadrennial expressions of civic duty, empty promises and lately, mindless rage become a bit…distracting. Compromise and Lesser Evil choosing, like a camera aimed at an Amish person take a bit of your soul each time. As you all read this, my Republic has decided its fate, but in the meantime I have to say, “Thank the Gods for Shapeshifter NZ.” They have helped keep me sane as I endure the endless battle between Mini-Mussolini and the Empress of E-mail. Heads they win, Tails we lose.
Shapeshifter NZ, take us on a very wild ride in their new Hospital Records vehicle, Stars. Eleven different journeys that pull us along eleven separate trails and return us safely home energized, elated and maybe just a bit enlightened. Beginning with the upbeat Caribbeanesque title track, we feel the summer sun and joyously dance our way into the album. Keyboard steel drum, driving rhythms and full throated synthesizers are a tantalizing taste of what is yet to come. With Blazer and Her, we slow down a bit, enjoying the scenery as we reflect on the personal.
Her is also a haunting video release, an homage by the group to a departed friend. Filmed on a rock in the ocean, with a shark-like dorsal fin shooting out of its center, the video earns repeated viewings. As the band stated in an interview for Magnetic Magazine, the song is, “A celebration of letting go (of a dear friend). Traveling with them as they go, enjoying the journey and finally letting them on their way with a smiling heart.”
Appropriately, it’s at this point that we hit the smiling heart of Stars. After taking a short breather with the instrumental, So Long, Fake Charmer knocks us back with a super heavy beat pushing distorted bass and vocals. It’s heavy Metal DnB. From here on, it’s a dance through the laser lit jungle as we twist and twirl past Ex-Machina, Oculus and Heart of Bones.
Now we are heading home. Drive and Gilded Sun bring us there, sweaty, energized and reflective. We cool down physically as we heat up emotionally while the lush keyboards and cool beats roll over us in a wave of musical musings. The last track, Gilded Sun draws into itself and fades to silence, a musical sunset at the end of our day’s travels.
It’s some of the subtleties that stand out in this recording, and give it a unique signature. The distorted guitar in Gilded Sun, the short saxophone cameo in Drive, the vocal cadence in Blazer evoking Black Sabbath’s song Ironman, and the fuzz bass in Fake Charmer. These are the little details that remind us that these folks are also a live band.
So please forgive me if I admit to a special fondness for Drum and Bass artists who perform live with instruments. DJ’s are amazing masters of their craft. What they can do blows me away on a regular basis. However, I spent a good chunk of my life writing and performing live music. Those are my roots, and roots run deep. The fact that Shapeshifter NZ is also a great live act is the bow on this package.
Stars is an outstanding addition to the Shapeshifter catalogue. It captures a variety of moods, and provides the perfect soundtrack to your next party. If you happen to be in New Zealand over the next few months, the group will be on a summer tour ,where in the bands own words we can expect, “…sun, bass and beersies.” That sounds great to me. Cheers.Buy & Stream here: https://HospitalRecords.lnk.to/Starsyb
Shapeshifter NZ solidify their out-of-this-world status with their sixth studio album Stars, due out on November 4th.
Melding a progressive bass music approach with their definitive core elements - hypnotic electronic textures, barreling backbeats and the driving vocals of P Digsss - Stars pushes their stadium-sized sound to new heights.
The interstellar result includes a tracklisting of 11 expertly crafted tunes - tracks which travel between the summer-time anthem of lead single ‘Stars’ and the cosmic craftings of ‘Her’, to the driving dance anthem ‘Eternal’ and darker corners of ‘Ex Machina’.
Their first album since the platinum selling Delta in 2013 – a release that also bore platinum single ‘In Colour’ - Stars marks the welcome return of one of New Zealand’s finest.