woensdag 20 februari 2019

ShapeShiftingAliens. ShapeShiftingAliens

Now where have I seen this picture before? I remember being slightly shocked by the hideously stuffed and dressed little monkeys. And here one is on the cover of ShapeShiftingAliens' first album.

ShapeShiftingAliens is a Swedish duo that works in a familiar format started by duos like Yazoo, Soft Cell, Erasure and Pet Shop Boys. There's a singer and a digital musician very adept at working with all sorts of keyboards, synthesizers and beats. Singer Johan Cléve and musician/producer Niklas Rundquist (also known as Brainshadow) lay down a digital pop atmosphere that in part could have been made in the 80s like the examples mentioned, were it not they provide an extra layer over their music. And that is where it becomes more interesting for the likes of me.

Unmistakingly ShapeShiftingAliens plays out a Bowie card. The 'Heroes' guitarsound can be found on this album in different places. Cléve is not afraid of going in search of a Bowie diction in his singing. If this were a competition David Bowie would win it without even a second thought. It isn't a competition, so it is possible to notice how these influences are woven into the 80s synth sounds and more modern (sounding) beats. In a successful way to.

Promo photo: Niklas Rundquist
Like some of the 80s examples I mentioned above ShapeShiftingAliens manages to join cold, distancing electronics with warm melodies and emotions. Although never a real fan of any of these bands, they all have some superb singles, where the blend they present is of utmost quality. On 'ShapeShiftingAliens' the duo manages the same feat. There is always a melody and warmth while the coldness tries to win in favour of the warmth. Listen to 'Showing My Face'. All coldness in the beats and synths that keep pulsing. Even Cléve sings with a voice near dead. And then come in all these little oohs and aahs, like little rays of light reaching the dark side of the moon by some sort of detour.

Another strong feature of this album is found in the diversity of the songs. Like a real Bowie album from the 70s anything can come by. With hints to music from 20s and early 30s Berlin of the previous century ('Stay') back to back with the already mentioned utterly cold 'Showing My Face'. While 'Stay' is replaced by a ballad, including a real piano and those Robert Fripp/Earl Slick guitar sounds, called 'Just A Boy'. ShapeShiftingAliens is not afraid of surprising its listeners.

This album may be a homage of some sort to the artistry of David Bowie. His quality, as in his best work, is never reached here. This duo has managed to blend some of his sounds and influences into its own version of electronic music. This part worked really well. There is melodic strength galore and a sense of adventure that allows for an interesting listen trip. More than worthwhile to check out.


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