December 16, 2011

Review: Shade Out-One of One

There’s something to be said about musicians who create odd music specifically to be different and sound completely original. Without them, music would be stagnant forever, and nothing new would be created. Not everything new is worthy of being remembered as genius, but there are always novel ideas that become recognized.

Shade Out is one of those artists that push the envelope. Self described as a band to “make you think, broaden your tastes and blow your speakers,” they live up to that description well. None of these songs are going to be heard on the radio anytime soon, but don’t look at that as a reason to think this album is bad. It isn’t, it’s just very unique.

One of One is their latest record.  It’s a hard record to categorize, combining elements of Blues, Progressive Rock, Swing, and Latin. There’s no good way to describe it; it’s a record unto itself. It's dark, foreboding, yet cool at the same time.  “Other Ways” sets the tone and none of the songs deviate from it very much, if at all. The opening riff in this song has that swing feel to it but clearly isn’t a fun, inviting swing song like you might be expecting. “Disappearing” is much more straightforward, with a driving rock beat to start, with some Latin percussion thrown in to make it all the more mysterious. “Looking Up To The Sky” reminds me of trip–hop, and is a big stretch for the ears. There are several points that seem more accessible to listen to, but then the strangeness comes back. The whole album sounds like it’s on a psychedelic trip in black and white.

Samantha Smith’s Vocals are dark and rich, a perfect alto blend. Mark Smith’s keyboard work carries the band as they go and it works well. Hank Hanewinkel III’s drumming is very deliberate yet not distracting from any other aspect of the band. Ron Wood’s auxiliary percussion complements the drum kit perfectly, and adds a creepy texture that can’t be missed. Starla Robinson’s Tenor Sax playing is very sensual, adding a more human aspect to the music that almost wouldn’t be there without it.

I appreciate music like this a lot. It’s good to see that creativity is still alive and well, that music isn’t just staying within the borders we’ve known for so long. The trouble is that creative genius in music takes some getting used to, oftentimes hurting those who created it; by the time it’s appreciated and lauded, others have begun to do the same thing and are getting recognized for it, even though they were influenced by someone else to begin with. And speaking of getting used to, for me this album will take a lot of it. I’m not sure I’d listen to this every day, or even once a week for that matter. I’m glad I heard this album, and it’s definitely worth checking out, but I’m not sure this would make the cut into my personal library forever. Its uniqueness is somewhat of a novelty for me, one that would eventually wear off.

That being said, if you appreciate art that stretches your mind, is incomparable to anything, and exists to make the artist happy and no one else, then this is the album for you. Just be sure to have an open mind when you give this one a try.

3.5/5 Stars

Key Tracks: Other Ways, Disappearing, Full Sails

Daniel Erickson

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