The Gramophone Gang E.P.
The Gramophone Gang E.P. is available via:
It may be early days for Shiftin’ Shade’s creator Darren Pereira, yet with his tantalising and outstanding brand of Electro-Swing- he should be making plans. Few acts are offering up a comparable charm, luster and kick; so our hero is sure to reap the dividends- and invigorate and compel a fresh wave of new musicians.
TODAY I am returning to a theme that I have not delved into…
for some time now. My reconnaissance and investigation will be a bit shorter than usual, but more relevant that it has been for a little while. Most of the music I examine comes from artists whom have a few singles or songs under their belt, and are entering a new phase in their careers. In the case of recent feature-ees such as Universal Thee and Jingo, the acts have been making music for a few years; there are reviews and testimony in their back catalogues- and they are making plans for new L.P.s and E.P.s. It is rare that I get to surmise an artist whom is just coming through; making the embryonic steps and coming into the music world with that eagerness and ambition. There is always a nervousness and unpredictability for any new act coming through, as there is a lot to think about and prepare. As well as getting your profile and need out there, one must also consider a labyrinth of check-lists and ‘to-dos’. When investigating every new act, I always get to delve into where they have come from; how hard they have had to work in order to get their music off the ground- and how much they have had to spend to realise their inner ambitions. Being in that embryonic stage myself, I am looking at each new act as a guidance counsellor- as well as musicians to be inspired by, and promote. One of the things that worries me most (about new musicians) is the lack of originality and thought that goes into their templates; it is something I will investigate in more depth, but too many are blustering through, all full of promise and wide-eyed optimism- only to be let down by a stale and homogenized sound. It is a sad truth, but many do not do their market research up top; assume that whatever they put out there is going to be grabbed up and adored- that the collective music public will suckle at their creative teat. A huge voice or big personality may ensure some short-term, fascination, but soon enough eyes and ears tire of such threadbare offerings. Happily, most of my music features are completed with an anxiety-free heart; knowing that the act or band has thought everything through considerably- and will have a smooth and profitable future ahead of them. I still have fears for my own future, but when looking various success stories, it at least provides me with some buoyancy and hope. Such is the nature of the industry, that many eager acts are swallowed up before they have a chance to get going. The mainstream is showing newcomers what is on offer; what can be obtained if you hit ‘The Big Time’- and it may be leading many astray. My abiding point coming through, is that everyone whom has the ambition and intentions (to make music) indeed should- it is the greatest art form there is, and as such, should be embraced fully. Caution and maturity need to be cemented pillars that are viewed and examined before a single song is recorded. At the forefront of modern music, there is a classic division between Pop, Soul, R&B and its sub-genres (Lady Gaga, Rhianna, Beyonce etc.) as well as Rock, Indie and its offshoots (Kings of Leon, Arctic Monkeys etc.)- in addition there is a healthy ‘middle ground’. I may be over-simplifying, but there are few that fall within a triple intersection; hardly any whom manage to successfully fuse genres and tastes- to appeal to a wider market. To my ear, the former camp (aside from the likes of Beyonce) is synonymous with over-simplicity and minor appeal. The artists have their own fans and followers, yet I have never resonated with the brand of music, and always found it too lacking and cloying. The Rock/Indie market has some spectacular front-runners, yet there are still too many soundalikes coming along; those whom try to jump on the bandwagon of an existing act- without offering too much difference and nuance. The musicians and artists whom lay in-between these clans are showing the strongest signs of promise and diversity; it is these whom new acts should be looking towards- when putting their own sounds together. Too many fledgling artists either offer too much bland and senseless force or vague and fluffy utterings; there is are few whom take the trouble to invigorate their palate with flavours, colours, emotional range and an abundance of striking quality. Every time I give a positive review to an act, they have that extra something; a drive or thoughtfulness that takes these considerations on board- and generate sounds that are new and stunning. If new music is going to tussle with the mainstream; integrate its best and brightest within its waters, then it the sounds bein proffered should be stronger and more layered- in order to present a viable and preferrable alterative. It seems like a lot to think about and get hammered down (before you start out), but it needn’t be so daunting. Consider all the music that has come before, and how many acts have played their part in music’s growth, and you only really need to make some minor notes. Doing what hundreds of other acts or bands are doing is probably not the best start in life; if your music has the same sound and chord sequences as Acts A-Z, then at the very best, you are going to last a very short time. You do not have to be too diverse and freewheelin’, but infusing older genres, mixing styles and injecting your music with distinct and unique personality shades always produces the strongest offspring. As well as this, a set of lyrics and songs need to be created that not only provide an insight into your own life, but have a sense of sharpness and originality to them. Far too many acts present generic motifs and songbooks, and it can become annoying to hear the same type of songs endlessly recycled. The final important point to consider is that to your projection and social media output. Over the last week I have surveyed a couple of acts whose portfolio has been lacking. If you are literally putting your first songs out, then media detail naturally progresses later on, but if you have a solid foundation in place- what is the excuse for giving so little away? If your biography contains a couple of lines and you leave it to the listener to do all the hard work, then the fascination wears off pretty soon- if it comes at all. It is not creatively whorish or foolish to let someone into your life and give them some much-needed information: where you come from, who influences you; links to reviews and as much personal insight as you can give. I guess if you have the fundamentals all figured and sewn up, then your job and task is going to be a lot easier; free from as much strife as it could otherwise have been- it is important to make sure you can walk before you can run.
This brings me to the subject of my featured artist. By day, he is Darren Pereira, a “Producer/Dj and multi instrumentalist of Portuguese origin“; someone whom goes by the alias of Shiftin’ Shade (or Christopher Shade as well). Before I go into more detail about our act- you guessed it- here is a little bit of biographical information:
The Electro Swing sound and all it comes with. .. Clean blends of the 4×4 with some swing groove and a whole lot of feel, Shuffle those feet through the prohibition era yo with the Lord High Chancellor of Swing!
Our hero is at the beginning of a career which is going to be jam-packed and busy. With influence such as Goldfish, Parov Stelar, Caravan Palace, Scott Joplin, Duke Ellington and Nina Simone, there is a rich and fascinating range of sounds that come through in the music; when instilled with a striking and fascinating personality make up the superhero; the sobriquet- the alias that is Shiftin’ Shade. Its mere name alone gives you an insight into the grinning smile and heady scents that the music offer; it is something that brings me to another point. The Gramophone Gang E.P. is a trio of songs which is not only reviving a near-forgotten genre, but also giving a fascinating insight into a hungry young talent whom has clearly done his market research. As well as sounds being awash with originality and intent- as well as tones which can appeal to various camps of music-lovers- but the Shiftin’ Shade uniform is something that catches the eye; it has a mystique and charming appeal that catches the eye and imagination. These are the early days for Pereira’s endeavours, so reviews and biographies will be forthcoming, but from chatting with him, I gleamed a clear sense of someone whom is determined to succeed; whom has all the necessary ammunition and armoury at his disposal- and is keen to get as many people listening to his music as possible. The near-future offers up the very distinct possibility of a Shiftin’ Shade L.P., and I hope that a prosperous record label snaps up the young man, and assists in furthering his talents. When it comes to the sound, our hero seems to be one step ahead. Electro-Swing is a genre that has a smattering of mainstream players (Caro Emerald is amongst them), yet it is a segment of music that is much overlooked. When I have been reviewing, most of my acts are Rock/Soul or Pop-based (with exceptions), but I have stumbled across some terrifically inventive Electro-Swing artists. Little Violet is a name that has appeared many times on my pages, and coming out of the Cuckoo Records stable, she has been winning many hearts. Her beguiling beauty and alpha female mandates are backed by alluring and hypnotic Swing rhythms- sort of The Andrews Sisters with a healthy invigoration of the modern-day. When I assessed Little Violet tracks Don’t Stop and Shut Up, I was amazed by the richness and psychotropic swathes that were being offered up. The former track was abound with energy and feet-moving implore; our heroine had me on the ropes. Once I completed surveying the track, I was compelled to write:
“The vocal is passionate and strong, and lyrics like: “Take control of what you’re worth” emit a steadfast refusal to be subjugated; with “Take it easy/just one step at a time”, imploring some ambition restraint. The theme of the song concerns not being content to stand still and taking the step to break the mould. “Keep on moving/Don’t stop” is the motivational mantra of the track. Special kudos goes to the band, who genuinely emit an appreciation and understanding of the jazz and swing greats, and yet add a retro, updated sparkle and kick to the sound, fusing a little bit of modern jazz to its supreme bodywork. The sound is tight and mesmeric throughout, and does what any great song should do: not only want to make you smile and dance, but dive into the jazz swing annals, and hear the original purveyors as well. On a positive note, the vocal as well has pleasing shades of Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, as well as a little touch of Paloma Faith. In a way too, one can cross reference Little Violet with Caro Emerald. She too has a great talent and passion for a bygone, better age, but is similarly capable of modernizing the sound and making its appeal devoid of boundaries and labelling.”
The later is a more slowed-down and potent killer thriller; infested with pointed and sharp words; and I surmised:
“The band is tight and stunning throughout. As the chorus fades I can hear echoes of Miles Davis’s ‘Kind of Blue’ (particularly the track ‘Blue in Green’). The band turn Lyrebird in their range of sounds. Davis can be seen, also shades of ‘Life in a Glasshouse’ by Radiohead can be detected; a little of Glenn Miller’s ‘In The Mood’; a smidge of Fletcher Henderson and Cab Calloway show up in the blood count. The band do not try to parody or replicate them. The sounds, spirits and perfumes are poured together and stirred to give a heady blend. It updates the genres and revitalizes them for the ’00s. The vocal does not suffocate or feel forced. At its most demure, it evocates Carmen McRae and modern singers such as Adele. When the tempo rises, Amy Winehouse, Sarah Vaughan and Nelly Furtado. It is a smoky and gutsy performance and has incredible soul and veracity to it. Our single lady talks about how (her former beau), had “a temper, which could break a heart”; who’d: “babble at you/Make you want to scream”. The chorus is deployed effectively between the heartbreak tableau vivants; the entire track is a bloodstained parable telling the story of a woman who is less Moll Flanders and more gangster’s moll.”
I know an L.P. is forthcoming from Little Violet and it will be an extraordinary collection, and one that is lacking from new music as a whole. Another Electro-Swing artist I assessed (again from the Cuckoo Records stall) is Cissie Redgwick. I assessed the tracks Gimme That Swing and Mister Mister. The former, is a track that had elements in common with Little Violet, but also a bold and unique personality. I was compelled by the music that Redgwick was presenting, writing:
“The chorus is instantly indelible and simple. It strikes a huge chord, and the combination of swing (and at times Cuban-sounding) brass, combined with a voice and evocation fresh from the golden age, balances brilliantly with the slower, and more spiked verses. The entire song is never dragged too deep down: the key manifestos are energy; excitement, and an imploring desire to make your feet dance. It is an incredibly catchy and invigorating number, and the tune, melody and firestorm of jazzy tones will smash, as hard as the potent and personable honest, and well-observed lyrics. Redgwick is a woman who has been wronged, and is intent on releasing a biblical plague of retribution, through swing. It may sound like a temporised vengeance, but the sonic blasts and cursive vocal immediacy is more discommodious and miasmatic than any physical punishment.”
Again, I think that an L.P. is in the pipeline, but both those artists arrived on my radar a year ago; and I have desperately been seeking a similarly flavoured cocktail ever since. Both are strong and sexy female performers whom do not give a gender-specific account of life and love, but write songs whose relevance is meaningful to both men and women. As much as I adore the two individuals, it seems that a lot more should be coming through- it is a genre that offers up some much of life’s elemental requirements. As well as sexiness, sassy and bold musical parables and a kick that is hard to ignore, the music was happy and alive; vibrant and alluring- as well as compelling and catchy as hell. If you think about it, those are the components that most music-lovers seek out, yet few are ever offered. Most modern music offers some of these considerations, yet few contemporaries go the whole hog, and get everything spot-on. For that reason, I was excited when I heard about Shiftin’ Shade. As well as giving a male spin on the genre, he has the same compelling swing and punch that Little Violet and Cissie Redgwick do; is based in the same county as them (Yorkshire)- and may well come under the radar of Cuckoo. It must be a Yorkshire thing, but it is a county that is housing some of the most diverse and pioneering acts of the moment; perhaps the only county that is seeing a proliferation and reinvigorating of Swing; via the medium of Electro-Swing. Current stars such as Ruby Macintosh (Yorkshire girl too) are adding their input and coins into the hat, yet there is plenty of room and space still left- so much ground to discover and explore. It is true that the majority of Electro-Swing movements have been made by women, so it is refreshing and compelling to see Pereira come through. With Portuguese heritage and a striking moniker to his credit, I sat myself down to investigate his debut collection, The Gramophone Gang E.P. With colleagues such as Little Violet sure to be huge future names, I was certain that if Pereira were able to elicit just some of the majesty that Don’t Stop and Shut Up (as well as Redgwick’s tracks) contained then the next few years would provide vast opportunities and prosperities.
With a rousing “doo-dah-doo-dah-doo“, an a snippet of vinyl crackle, Speakeasy Suzy gets underway. Featuring the talents of Adam Hume, it is a track that begins life with a degree of gusto and jive that is hard to ignore. Staccato blasts of horns mingle and punch alongside percussive beats- which are intermittent but hard-hitting. The mood rouses and blears; celebrates and dances, waiting for Hume to step up to the mic. Before he arrives, you cannot help but get involved in the opening coda; wrap your head inside of the snaking and sparkling bursts that are elicited forth- is a joyous and authentic Swing rabble. With our hero unsure “what I’m gonna do“; chasing ‘baby do’, his voice is imploring and strengthened; imbued with a slight growl and gravel it is an impassioned vocal. The delivery itself is fast-paced and rifled; Hume disseminates the words at a rate of knots; mixing “bam bam booms” with “bang bang bangs” it has a breakneck presentation that gives the song a huge energy. With our heroine being tracked and watched; the “bang bang bang“s leave the boys “shot the boys down in the room“. At an early stage the song gets inside your head and compels you to imagine what is happening within. You can envisage black-and-white scenes; behatted gangsters and villains chasing around town; our gadabout heroine getting under the skin. The brass blastings that are deployed between lines have quite a modern sound to them; there is a freshness and vibrancy to the track which mixes ’40s Swing testimony with modern-day cutting-edge. Acts such as Rizzle Kicks have managed to deploy this same sort of cross-pollination, yet never with the same energy and force that Shiftin’ Shade does. With scenes being set and tension rising, it becomes almost unpalpable- before a the record is stopped sharply. A spoken word segment is now in the mix; a dapper-voiced gentlemen asks: “Are you sure you wouldn’t like to stay just a little while longer?” (whether it is Hume or not I am unsure). With our heroine replying “no“, the mood once more fizzes and jumps into life; catching you by surprise and providing another twist. There is no fakery or sense of shortcoming within the song, and you can tell its author has a clear passion and authority for the genres he is exploring and splicing. The songs pervasive kick gets you tapping your feet and smiling, and the sonic blasts and tapping percussion augments this; you find yourself humming along and moving your arms (perhaps I’m just a bit suggestible, but I dare say many others will do likewise). With Hume back on vocal duties, a new scene begins; our heroine “Said hi then bye“; not wanting to be reduced to tears, with a left and right (“out of sight“) it is a “sure-fire way to make the big boys cry“. As well as being entranced within the sun-kissed and gangsters and molls groove of the track, it is impossible not to be hit by the passion and urgency of the vocal (which almost scats) the lines syncopate, tangle and tumble into one another, giving an appropriate breathlessness to proceedings. Our hero is being tangled up and overwhelmed; he has never seen a girl with an angel face (“like yours“); there is an innocence and charm to the images; no salaciousness or extraneous profanity, it is a bona fide stomper- one which will appeal to all types of music-lovers. I mentioned the likes of Rizzle Kicks, and in that sense the track can draw in the 18-30 age bracket adeptly with its bracing kick and beach-ready smile; it will resonate with everyone else because of the infectious fun and unslakeable Swing groove. With a certain sense of emotional fatigue and overwhelm occurring, our hero scats and jives; wordless vocal annotations are unfurled; you can tell that this girl is in his head and leading him astray. Just prior to the 1:30 marker, the composition takes control; with darker flavour notes, the bass and percussive elements are more down-tempo and moodier; before another spoken word sample is presented. This time around, our hero blithely admits: “You must think I’m dumb, huh?”; that ritzy and opulent sense of class enforcing every syllable. Our velvet voice heroine offers a snappy riposte: “Do you really want me to answer that?” It is as though the dialogue is lifted from a ’30s film; the sort that you could imagine Clark Gable in- a San Francisco-cum-Saratoga by-play (I will have to ask Pereira where the sample is from or if it is an original recording). The second invocation of this form is evocative and humorous, and acts not only as a countenance to the fast-paced verses; but also as a chance for the listener to catch their breath…before we are back in the thick of things. Before we do, the composition has some speaking to do. It glistens and steps; weaves and jives- mixing elliptical brass with low-down bass and percussion, and twanging electric strings. We are back in the room, boys getting shot down (once more), and making the big boys cry. All of the Nu-Jazz, Electro-Swing and Swing elements bubble through and offer up a heady intoxication. Another snippet of vintage talk is delivered, this time our hero is sheaving his wit; promising his sweetheart he’ll do anything for her, he adds an addendum: “As long as it’s something I don’t want to do“. He is speaking to an audience or collective friends, as a hearty chuckle is elicited; applause and chuckles spar with the insatiable sonics- that continue to weave and jive with a restless energy. The track comes to an end (after another round of scats and wordlessness); bringing a stunning opening cut to its conclusion. With Hume on vocals once more, the *Live Bootleg Version* of Shy Street Swing Club arrives. With a title that offers alliteration, intrigue and vivid imagery, once again there is a slight crackle that opens proceedings- and we are under way. “High-class” and “elegant” is the heroine of the number; an axiomatic truth (“That’s a fact“); the vocal has a distortion and is lower in the mix. It a curious build-up that has a romantic edge and soothing please to it, with Hume enraptured once more. Providing paen to a heart-breaking girl, he confesses: “There’s nothing I’d subtract“. When she walks in the room (and makes her impact), our hero is overcome; she is mandated to dance; to cut loose and set the floor alight. Whereas its predecessor exploded into life from the off, Shy Street Swing Club has semi-appropriate beginnings (given the ‘Shy Street’ portion of the title), where proclamations and outpourings are muted but romantically graceful. From the gangsters, bordello and cat-and-mouse tableaux of the speakeasy; we are in the comparatively decadent surroundings of the swing joint- and ready to get down. The beat and flavour are softer and more composed in the early stages; our hero is setting the scene and not showing his hand too soon. Percussive and pattering beats are laid in; sonic accomplices are restrained and finger-clicking; Hume makes an earnest request: “Just close those eyes/Take a two steps forward…” Before we allow our senses to be overwhelmed, a crackling spoken word parable is unleashed. There is a disquisition and phallicratic control game being played; a two-hander between man and woman. She goes “Yeah boy!” (after he proclaims that he’s going to do things the old-fashioned way); our hero states: “I’m gonna ask questions/And you’re gonna have answers.” That is the clarion call for action; the brass becomes more emphatic and celebratory- with a beat that is hard-hitting and pulsating. Whereas Speakeasy’ had its roots in the ’30s-’40s; and its head in the modern-day, here there is a comparable lineage. With percussion that is heady and tub-thumping, it can unite and galvanise the dance floors; cause beach-goers and sun-worshipers to tap their digits- and make them move their feet. In the background is that Swing-era authenticity; that gramophone glory that is the hallmark of Shiftin’ Shade. By the 1:30 check-point, you sense there is a slight irony with regards to the ‘Shy’ Street; any timidity and demure has been abandoned and our self-effacing hero is in the mood to dance; conjoin with his beau and allow the music to entrance his soul. The inclusion and persistent of heavier and pugnacious piano strikes give the song a sweat and twilight potency; one which juxtaposes the mood brilliantly, and gives the overall sound a richness and great amount of intuitive detail- our creator has a sympatico for the grand Swing age, and knows how to show it. With some atonymic clarifications out the way, our hero allows his sensual purr to score the following lines. Letting the composition dip slightly, “’cause the rest can’t keep up pace“; it is a one-horse race- patently obvious truths are being laid bare. With the dance floor straggler and wannabies all retreating to the shadows and side-lines, our hero commands the spotlight; with his girl in hand, they are showing how it is done- and swinging the night away. The final 40 seconds is a mass of addictive and unshakeable repetition; our hero’s imploring coda gets inside your head, as he advises his partner to move her feet (self-consciousness be damned, as yours do likewise). Before we get carried away with the youthful abandon and get caught up the reckless energy of the night, a caution is forthcoming. A spoken word interjection sees a man speak to our hero: “..you get a little blinded when it comes to girls“. It is almost a father-son dialogue; the elder advising his eager offspring to step back and think things through- aware of how alluring and dangerous such beauties can be. Perhaps our hero has had his heart-broken too many times, but he is not willing to stop looking (for love)- and a final few words show that he is throwing caution to the wind. It is another intoxicating and catchy cut that roots itself in your brain- and does not shake itself loose. Completing our trio of numbers (sans Hume on the mic.) is the (gloriously titled) Wyther Lane Jazz. The E.P.’s 1-2 had their titles rooted in particular locations; swing clubs and speakeasy establishments were synonymous; yet here there is a less itinerant parable; one whose heart is paying tribute to an alluring paragon. Wyther Lane is a locale within the LS5 postcode, and not one that is particular glamorous. There is an industrial estate and residencies within its environs, but is as un-evocative a place as one can envisage. This gives the song a sense of humour, and the piquancy of the real-life setting spikes the intrigue- right from the start. I am sure that the Wyther Lane of Leeds has some charming and reputable businesses within, but the song Wyther Lane Jazz puts you in mind of the U.S. Carrying on from where Shy Street Swing Club left off, a comparable sound and setting is presented. There is an evolutionary and multifaceted build to the composition. With some grimier and low-down drive; mixes of horn blasts and grumbling undertones, the initial few seconds provide fascination and wonderful blend. Like whiskey, rum and cocktails all being mixed, you hear so many different (and nuanced) sounds fuse and romance, that it has the feel of an Experimental Dance or Trip Hop number- in the way that genres and sounds are seamlessly fused to create a animalistic whole. The pleasing soothe and jive catch the ear, but it is the percussion and hand-claps (bubbling underneath) that draw your eyes in; you are waiting for them to take charge and lead the way. Before you get a chance to speculate and forward-think, we are treated to a vocal interlude- another spoken word passage. What we get is Rhett Butler (from Gone with the Wind) utter his most famous (or infamous) line: “Frankly. my dear, I don’t give a damn.” It is not something you expect, and not only do you find yourself smile along; but it seems like such a natural progression. I mentioned Clark Gable previously, so his appearance seemed apropos; I have been picturing him all along- and it puts paid to my curiosity as to where the spoken word snippets were sourced from. Whether it is actually Gable’s voice (in the segment) or not, I am not sure (got to watch that film again!), you have nary a moment to check, as a sonic riot is unleashed. Our creator infuses brass parps and codas that are stonewall classics; the truest manifestations of the Swing Era players- that mingle alongside crisper and more retro trumpets. The way that Shiftin’ Shade manages to mix modern-day relevance and urgency with 70-year-old vintage nods is impressive indeed- few artists are as darting and inventive. Evocations of Glenn Miller and Bluebird Records come to mind, and everything is lovingly incorporated. Wyther Lane’ employs so much busy and jam-packed mood, it is like a musical sweet shop; elements and various multifarious lines are brought into the mix. Ceremonial and marching brass coda mingles with the skiffling and dace-crazed foreground; creating a beautiful double helix that enforces its way into your psyche and impressively hits the mark. Just after the 1:00 stage, plinking and highfalutin strings twinkle and crackle; a gorgeous and tender parable that changes the pace (once more) and relaxes you. With only a brief moment to be absorbed by the seductive touch of what is present, we are taken somewhere new; a renewed sonic boldness and bravery comes back in; the Glenn Miller-cum-Benny Goodman partnership reignites, and your feet move once more. The final 30 seconds is a delirium of electioneering, genre-splicing and passion. In the same way that cut-and-paste gods such as The Avalanches could fuse various sounds into a single passage and make it sound brand-new, here our hero does likewise- although with greater authority and awareness. Low and temporized beats and shadier notes rumble in the mix; interjected with upbeat and spiked trumpet blasts, there is an on-going sense of progression and romance- as though it is the calling card and courtship of an impassioned couple making their moves. Perhaps Shiftin’ Shade is trying to distil the essence of a dream or scene; giving the Leeds avenue a fresh coat of paint, but to my mind, there is a sense of wordless foreplay; a trajectory that sees the lovers meet and flirt; retract and tease- before giving into their urges and lusts. As the dying moments make their mark, you are left wanting more (the mark of a truly great record), and try to soak in everything that has come before- and succumb completely to the E.P.’s charms.
After all of my talk about new artists and what it takes to get a foot in the door, I feel that Shiftin’ Shade will do pretty darn well. The Electro-Swing genre that has some mainstream advocates, yet the essence of the movement is instilled into certain songs and albums- rather than fully explored by fully fledged artists of the form. New music is seeing a wave of young and hungry Electro-Swing acts coming through, each of whom offer something unique and fascinating. When I sat down to review The Gramophone Gang E.P.- knowing that I was a fan of the genre- I was expecting to be impressed and thrilled, yet was offered so much more besides. Such was the sheer joy and sway of the music, that I had a hard time getting my fingers to type fast enough. With each line or parable came a paragraph’s worth of thoughts; it is music that compels you to write and put down your opinions- I hope I have done it ample justice. Over the course of eight-and-a-bit minutes, I was witness to one of the most vibrant, striking and stirring E.P.s I have reviewed all year, and a perfect tonic to the miserable grumpiness that meteorological forces are offering. Smile and cheer is very much the order of The Gramophone Gang E.P., that you forget about your woes; allow yourself to become immersed within the hypnotic jurisdiction of the music and let go. The trio of tracks are short and explosive- but given the energy and pace that each offers- it is just right. Another song may have been too much; too weighty and breathless, with Shiftin’ Shade saying a phenomenal amount over three songs. The tracks have a sound that invokes the glory days of the Swing era; there is conviction and clear understanding throughout; these cores are entangled within modern vibes and semblances- the resultant mix is fresh and endlessly fascinating. The modern and of-the-minute tones are likely to connect with all music-lovers; resonates with those in love with the dance floor and the beach trance; Rock gods whom prefer their sounds electric guitar-heavy- and everyone in-between them. Few contemporaries have such an immediacy about their sounds, and Shiftin’ Shade is going to stand apart- and gain a lot of unchartered ground. These are songs that can easily have life as T.V. themes and scene-setters; score stunningly evocative and memorable film scenes- and tantalize and seduce stereos, clubs, pubs and venues for many a-year to come. The vocal turns by Adam Hume are impressive and give huge weight and patronage to each track. He manages to invest notes of Swing stars of the ’30s and ’40s with deft conviction, as well as provide unique vocalisations to the duo of tracks (he is featured on). His phrasing and dictation is effective and potent, and he brings emotion, life and curiosity to each line; showcasing himself out as a superb vocalist and a name to watch. Able to convey lust and too-hot-to-handle seduction, his voice can range from an overwrought and spellbound whisper to an invigorated and bolstered force of nature- which has a mobility, charm and colour chart that few of his peers possess. Shiftin’ Shade’s input is stunning; capable of summoning up huge and memorable compositions with apparent ease (although I’m sure it wasn’t); it sound so effortless and natural, yet there is a hell of a lot of detail and discovery within each track- tiny notes and subtleties that demand repeated listens. The authenticity that each track contains is down to their author; a man whom has a fond knowledge of the Swing wonders; but a heady musical polish to bring life to the (bygone) era, and gives the genre a huge lease of life. Where as artists such as The Avalanches merely splice genres into a musical collage (with anal detail and an immense about of work), Shiftin’ Shade explores there in more depth; ensures that the listener gets to witness them in their full glory- but also manages to shape shift and mutate like a carnivorous musical predator. I am sure that Pereira will be looking into an official website, and bolstering his online portfolio; as his music needs to be heard by as many people as possible. At present he has a SoundCloud site and followers there, yet there are thousands across Facebook and Twitter (and other social media sites) that would love and embrace his sounds. When that following and fandom arrives (and it will), I am confident that his pages will become fuller and more confident (I hope I can assist), as he has a lot to shout about. A lot of perfunctory rank-and-file reviewers and blogosphere candidates tend to summarise and distil an E.P. (or album) into a few lines; negating the importance and relevance of fully exploring a work- how can one get the true impression of an E.P. if it is surmounting in three lines?! I get some criticism and cheeky pokes about the longevity and loquaciousness of my blog, and whilst (at times) it can be loquacious, I try to convey a sense of passion, erudition and excitement separate myself from the pack. I hope I have done the E.P. full justice, as it was just what I need right now- music to make my forget my woes and hide me away from the rain. When I reviewed Cissie Redgwick last year, her duo of songs really got under my skin, and inspired me. Through Little Violet I was aware of the genre, yet was not sure if anyone else was following in her footsteps. With regards to her particular evocations and formations:
“I think in a way there is a pioneering attitude from Redgwick, as well as Little Violet’s Cherie Gears. They break away from well-worn pop/soul/R ‘n’ B and rock parables, and re-energise and modernise a style of music that, to me, is timeless and faultless. Perhaps it does not have grit or the sort of graffiti lines to attract the most hardened of street/grime artists and fans; but from my perspective- as a huge rock/Grunge/desert rock fan, it is a wonderful sounds, and one wonders why there are not male artists whom are pervading the same electro swing lines. Maybe there are, but down to Redgwick (and Little Violet), there will be others waiting in the wings to sing the songs, they have sung, and try to take them on. There is a great deal of mobility available within electro swing- the lyrics, as well as the musical compositions, and with a voice as strong as Redgwick’s; she is going to be capable of a massive amount of good, should she choose to. With the combination of 1941-Andrews Sisters, with 2013 freshness and innovation, mingling with an underlying ’70s rock innovation in the music/lyrics set, Cisse Redgwick is sure of a long, and fruitful career; she is stunning, strong-willed and a phenomenally diverse and workaholic songwriter.”
I hope Shiftin’ Shade will not object to my comparing him to other artists of the genre, and brining in snippets from other reviews, because I feel it is making my point. As well as there being other artists whom are trying to regenerate embers from the ’40s and ’50s Swing movement, each are doing in their own way- and are sure to benefit from a long career. It is a lifestyle of music that is very much in people’s minds, yet in terms of mainstream representation, how many acts can you think of (whom offer up this music)? That is why these artists are so necessary and worthy, and Shiftin’ Shade is right at the top of the list. He may not look as mouth-watering in a sequin dress, but he has a potency, power and arresting set of songs that are sure to familiarise themselves with the public at large. It is clear how much music means to him, and how keen he is for his songs to be heard. The Electro-Swing genre is one that is undiscriminating and universal; built around an innocence and sense of adventure that everyone can relate to. With certain types of music appeal only to clandestine groups, we should all be embracing what this genre has to offer up. I have been replaying and re-investigating The Gramophone Gang E.P. for a couple of hours; compelled and buoyed by the sheer charm and energy that it proffers- and how memorable and striking the songs are. From speaking with our hero, I know that there are plans for a full-length album; gigs and future songs are all on his itinerary, and it seems that he has a clear idea for the future. I am sure that record labels and venues will be banging at his door, as the songs he has invented are abound with catchiness, spellbinding kick and nuance- you play them over and over to get them to reveal their full charms. The early days of a career are nervy and unpredictable, but our hero should have no doubts or need to demure: his debut E.P. is one is an incredible accomplishment. Whether the album will make an appearance this year, or come to view next year, I am unsure; yet one thing that I can say is…
IT will be one of the most eagerly awaited of the year.
The Gramophone Gang E.P. Track Listing:
Speakeasy Suzy (Feat. Adam Hume)- 9.8/10
Shy Street Swing Club (Feat. Adam Hume) *Live Bootleg Version*- 9.7
Wyther Lane Jazz- 9.7
Standout track: Speakyeasy Suzy
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To hear more of Adam Hume’s work: