This post has to be prefaced with that dreaded sentence: I know someone in the band. But fear not, despite any problems with objectivity I may have had, Shift-Static have made it very easy for me by being pretty bloody fantastic. A five-piece formed at Newcastle Uni, they played their debut gig last night in the lovely Head of Steam bar’s basement to a small but rapturous audience. It was also the first time I’d heard their work.
The music itself is hard to pin down, swapping from airy, sampled-beat soundscapes to more forceful, guitar-led sections. It meanders all over the place, resulting in lovely, sprawling songs that constantly take left turns, my personal favourite being the abrupt, and brilliantly fashioned change halfway through ‘Father’s Footsteps Pt. 2’, where the echo-laden first half is forced into the skittering Kid A beats of the second. The band seemingly want to shake the listener into not just drifting off and letting it all sweep over them. Laura Smith’s honeyed vocals worm themselves around each song, and (in the same fashion as Meursault lead singer Neil Pennycook’s voice) refuse to remain the focus, but drift in and out like some ethereal instrument. Every song seems to have been studied for its ability to seamlessly allow for interplay between Will Tasker’s lead guitar hooks, Gordon Bruce’s plaintive strumming and Laura Smith’s gentle piano chords. I’m not entirely sure whether it was intentional, but for the live show Joe Barton’s bass was pumped up far higher than on the recordings I’ve heard, which resulted in a more melodic, punchy role for the deeper notes too. As you can tell from this rather scattershot summing up of their style, this band won’t let one sound dominate their music, preferring to explore every avenue available to them as they progress through the songs.
As a live show too, it was brilliant to see how the band is constantly on the move, occupying different roles. It was essentially a choreographed dance around the stage as every member, and particularly drummer Charlie Bayler, rushed to fulfill their duties for each song. With each song lasting over four minutes at least, the set was only made up of five songs, but every one was received with an appreciation of just how much work has gone into each one. This is not a group who have just formed and forced out their earliest attempts at music, the music has clearly been toiled over and researched, fine-tuning it into the brilliant show it became. The fact that the band were bookended by two godawful cod-punk bands just made them stand out even more, and with the speed the CDs were being sold right after the set, it looks as though we have a lot more to look forward to from Shift-Static.
You can catch them play again, supporting Foot Village, at the Head of Steam in Newcastle on the 11th November, and if that’s a little too far for you to come, then you can listen to and download all five songs that have been released so far from their Myspace.