Since vocalist P Digsss joined the Drum N Bass outfit Shapeshifter in 2003, the band has seen a gradual shift towards more vocal based Drum N Bass music, spreading outwards from the typical format of Jungle and Drum N Bass music. Their focus shift more and more towards melody, putting less emphasis on their already superb deep bass lines and rhythms. It seems their focus is on expanding on the typical Drum N Bass formula through borrowing elements from other genres. Soulstice
could be described as electronic music, but it would do the album no justice, as their expansion has reached the point where every genre from jazz to hip-hop to rock has been fused into their alluring style.
The most visible connection in terms of musical style to Shapeshifter is undoubtedly to fellow Australasian Drum N Bass acts Pendulum
and Concord Dawn. Whilst these two bands may have had a higher level of international success, Shapeshifter seems to have pushed ahead of these two in the development of the genre.
Whilst Pendulum may be able to blend stunning vocal samples into their music, it seems that these are limited to the first minute of each song before falling into a generic Drum N Bass beat for another 5 to 6 minutes. Shapeshifter on the other hand seems to maintain interest throughout the length of a song, a feat that many Jungle acts fail to do when listened to at home. One of the primary reasons why Shapeshifter seems so adept at maintain interest is their penchant for letting the music flow. The usual boundaries set about by artists on themselves do not seem to be there for Shapeshifter, instead opting for the most appropriate and most sweet sounding sounds, no matter what the instrument may be. One
begins with a groovy break beat and a soft Eno-like piano melody, before P Digsss bright and optimistic lyrics come in. Each movement in the music seems to be done with unbridled enthusiasm, the bands eagerness to express themselves through their music visible at every step. In The Rain
combines a delicious fusion of New Zealand vocalist Ladi6, flutes, bass guitar and an electrifying beat. Each instrument of sound pushes each other along at a dashing rate until the song steps up again throwing in P Digsss vocals to create dueling vocals feeding off each other.
It seems every genre under the sun pops up at some time in or another in Soulstice
. From Southern Lights
and its heavy distorted guitars to Electric Dream
and its catchy House-influenced groove, each song brings its own unique flavour. One could look at it as destroying any continuity throughout the album, yet in essence the album brings the musical world into the album and applies it to each songs Drum N Bass context. The Ride
seems like something out of Kruder and Dorfmeister
’s back catalogue, with the emphasis on a mouthwatering downtempo-chillout melody, compounded by P Digsss at his smoothest. The blend of wide, deep bass lines, downtempo melody and surging beat is intoxicating, a whole host of flavours mesmerising the listener.
Some listeners may be disappointed that none of the songs quite reach the heights that their previous album Riddim Wise LP
set. Yet Soulstice
’s diversification away from the formula laid down by Riddim Wise LP
and rival Drum N Bass acts can only be taken as a positive move. It seems that with Soulstice
, Shapeshifter have realized it is not the direction that matters, but rather the movement towards their destination, or as P Digsss sings in The Ride
, “I don’t know where this roll is taking me, I’m just here for the ride.”
Their arsenal of instruments in Soulstice
varies greatly, with Shapeshifter switching it up each song. Each song truly is its own unique trip, entertaining to the last second. Some will lament the lack of continuity. But nevertheless Shapeshifter’s spontaneity makes Soulstice
relevant and enjoyable in any setting, be it home, club or mp3 player. Shapeshifter will have to move mountains to achieve international success, but it seems their river will keep flowing regardless of their obstacles.