Shapeshifter – Delta


by Andrew

I’ve been a huge supported of NZ music for a long time now and that could be due to family ties but I like to think its because they produce some of the best groove, DnB and dub in the biz. Shapeshifter are one of a trend of groups coming out of New Zealand that specialise in banging beats and smooth, smooth grooves. ‘Delta’ is their latest drop of NZ beat nectar and its no different than their best.

But Shapeshifter is a strange beast. Sometimes they are truly front of the pack and bring the beats like the more trendsetting populists of the ‘EDM’ scene. Take ‘Diamond Trade’ for example. Driving beats, swirling dubstep-like bass lines and wicked vocals. This track could easily be produced by any new wave EDM artist and you wouldn’t even know. But then you get tracks such as ‘Taste of Memory’ which have that quintessential Shapeshifter DnB sound. Uplifting, fast and reminiscent of less industrial Pendulum or even High Contrast (if you know your DnB you’ll know what I mean). There’s even shades of national cohorts Salmonella Dub and Tiki Taane in there. These are all great qualities, but does the album progress anywhere? Well, not really for the first half anyway.

The majority of the first half of the album is made up of what we have come to expect from NZ DnB and dub/groove. That’s not necessarily a problem in this dubstep and glitch-hop saturated dance music scene, but as a progression for Shapeshifter, its very little steps indeed. But then the second half of the album starts…

Almost as if the album was made up of two completely different themes, it distinctly shifts tone and brings in ‘Diamond Trade’ as the first track to get out of second gear. Following that, ‘Arcadia’ sets the tone for the next couple of tracks. Big beats, drumstep inspired production and basslines and phased-out vocals. Yes Paora ‘P Digsss’ Apera still sings on every track – that will never change – but its nice to hear the ‘real’ versatility Shapeshifter shows in live shows on this album. There’s even a little rock tribute in the track ‘Stadia’ with an intro that puts a lot of rock bands to shame. Big, epic and sweeping intros are another Shapeshifter trait but hearing it in stadium rock form followed by some of the heaviest glitch-hop inspired industrial DnB is a real fresh change.

As a criticism to this album, I think it goes on way to long. Most people think any less than an hour is sacrilege, but in this case, its 6 minutes shy of an hour is two or three songs too much. To their credit, the sound couldn’t be too much of a change to the shapeshifter mould lest it ostracise its older, more groove-laden fans, but I like progressive changes in artists; especially in dance music. And its something this album could have done differently. By putting the second half of the album at the beginning instead, it would have been a completely different album. But maybe that’s the plan. Aside from them having sold-out shows across Oz recently, they are not the un-travelled artists you would think. Yet when they do travel, the crowds follow and this release brings it back to the basics of what they really do well, produce brilliant live shows. If you had the chance recently to see them, I envy you. If you haven’t seen them at all, put it on your list for any time they come back to Australia or a hometown near you.


7/10 Drumstep Wonders {Abrasive Andy}

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