The Future Shape of Sound
Mad DNA Mud
ou’re setting yourself up for a fall when you give yourself a name which is more a bold declaration of intent than a simple label. So, do this lot live up to their manifesto/name?
Well kind of. It's the easiest game in the world to hear in a new band all the old bands they have referenced. The names come flooding, in fact, right when you press play: Alabama 3, Tricky, The Shamen, Tom Waits, Imani Coppola—they're all here and more. Yet there is something new amongst the something borrowed and the borrowed blues.
Singer Nuwella, who comes to us from Kenya via Canada, is the owner of the tense but sensuous female voice that dominates the best tracks on this album. There's an Eartha Kitt quality one minute, Martina Topley Bird the next. But again I'm falling back on comparisons.
We then have Son of Dave—a solo performer in his own right—who has his harp and beatbox wired into distortion units and other effects, creating a kind of epic subterranean blues, that sounds amazing live. Here he is on a tighter leash, but still manages to add moody embellishments to several tracks.
Future Shape of Sound's main writer/producer is Alex McGowen. He clearly loves 60s keyboard sounds, but nevertheless this album is, at the very least, the present shape of sound. Samples and studio trickery jostle for position with the retro elements and each track stakes out its atmospheric territory with confidence and attitude.
“Space Aged Out” for example, is a post-modern, deconstructed homage, or perhaps distant echo of, Cole Porter's “What A Swell Party This Is” (the Iggy Pop, Debbie Harry version springs to mind). But there are no finely tuned exquisitely witty lyrics here, just a humorous improvised banter between Nuwella and Alex as they meet in a bar and exchange inane chatter and drunken dance moves.
There are sprinkles of humour elsewhere too. The track “Silence” is just that. However the twist is, that three of the band are credited with performing its 59 seconds. Though not that successfully I have to say. I've heard silence done better and for longer.
The two best tracks, however, are the Waitsian “As Soon As I C U” (shame about the Prince-like playground abbreviation of the title), a slow, spacious and dubby industrial blues which goes the furthest to living up to the band's bold name, and the B52s style “Space Aged Gangster Soul” which begins with the totally irrelevant spoken words "I just thought of something while I was in the loo." It then bounces along unselfconsciously throwing rock, rap and soul into the sonic blender to create a whirling dervish of a song.
A promising and sassy debut.
Reviewed by: Howard Male
Reviewed on: 2004-10-12