Sunday, May 4, 2008

Shapeshift - Inna Basement Style (Maim & Disfigure CD-R)

Of the two Maim & Disfigure releases I picked up at that show (of which, I might add, this is the last you will be hearing), this was the one that really intrigued me. Zac said it was a collaboration between him, James Ferraro of the Skaters, Karl Bauer (aka Axolotl) and this other guy named Phil who was at the show in Albany but didn't play. Sounds like one hell of a super group, right? Well, no actually. I'll explain in a minute.

The name of the group, from what I gathered at the show, has got to have something to do with reptoids, whose shapeshifting properties were digressed upon for some time in Jack's living room (it was decided Oprah was queen). Weird part is I think they all were mostly joking except for James, who might actually be down with this whole reptoid conspiracy. More power to him I guess.

So when Zac laid the personnel on me for this one, I thought it really couldn't be better. Hell, Ferraro and Bauer together holds all sorts of potential, and I definitely dig Davis' guitar work in most any setting, speaking of shapeshifting. When I threw it on though, I became a bit of a believer as to this whole shapeshift thing. Was this the wrong disc? Definitely not, two other people had it too. Instead of the power electronics, blissed out drones and sludged mayhem, this was some weird group jam complete with bass, drums, guitar and only sometimes (very) minimal electronic work. But mostly not. Really, it's the last place I imagined this would end up, as if the whole lot of them decided to drop this noise nonsense and become some kind of feel-good summer jam outfit.

The whole thing is made up of two untitled tracks. No idea who plays what except that it's safe to say that's Zac on ye olde geetar. Other than that, what the hell's going on? Axolotl on maracas, Ferraro on bass, and Phil on trapset? God knows what instrumentation has coincided to create this strange loping groove session, which is about as aimless as Cheney on a quail hunt. At one point they really seem to be getting down when the bassist slides into some sort of ska dub thing, holding it down while the percussion stutter-steps around him. They hold it together as Zac comes in with a one note Neil Young homage sans attitude. At its best, it sounds like some kind of B-quality Can cover band, but overall it's pretty tired and amateurish stuff.

Yet try as I might, I can't bring myself to truly hate this disc, perhaps for the very reason stated above. The two cuts are clearly from the same take, and what it really sounds like is a few friends who have maybe been on tour a bit too long playing harsh noise and have gathered together to cool their jets over some mindless meandering jamz. About halfway through the second track, Zac says something like "that was twenty minutes of that shit" to which Phil replies, "oh my god" in disbelief. Which I guess let's you know that this really is exactly what it says it is. A drastic shift in shape as evidenced inna basement. Style. I guess we'll just have to keep waiting for the legit collab between these guys, and when it does come, I have yet to lose faith that it will kill. Reptoid drone, anyone? You heard it here first.

N.B.: Zac got in touch with me and corrected me on the personnel. Turns out it's actually only Zac playing guitar for about 3 minutes. "dr phil plays most of the leads, james and i play hand drums as well as karl (no trap kit on the disc), james plays bass and keys and so does karl....." I stand corrected.

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