I have to confess that the last time I saw Shapeshifter playing in a club was the final time they played my (and their) home town, ChCh before they moved off to Melbourne.
My how things change. The boys have developed their sound, added a vocalist and seem a little more assured up there on stage. And Redford Grenell (drums) has cut off his dreads! Shapeshifter are an anomaly when it comes to Drum ‘n’ Bass, because they aren’t really that electronic – comprising Devin Abrams keyboards, saxophone), Redford Grenell (drums), Nick Robinson (bass, keyboards), Sam Trevethick (keyboards, guitar, percussion) and new recruit Paora Apera (vocalist, AKA P Digiss). Playing what they call ‘organic’ instruments as well as the Korgs, synths and other rumbling bass-making apparatus.
I was, to tell you the truth, dubious about adding a resident vocalist to the already successful Shapeshifter combo, but I came out loving P Digiss. His vocals live are a mix between Che Fu and Cody Chestnutt (Singer on The Roots’ ‘The Seed’), with a dance style akin to a gorilla. Still, that got the crowd going. This guy knows how to work a crowd, and in turn work Shapeshifter into a frenzy.
They started off the night groovy, winning me and my fellow groovester over by their second track, a bit of a tribute to the grand lady Nina Simone with a jazzy Drum ‘n’ Bass (is there such a thing?) remix of ‘Feeling Good’. I can tell you right now that the crowd was, indeed, feeling damn good… groove gave way to great big rumbles of bass, stirring in my gut, and working it up just at the right time, working in well with P Digiss and his hype-inducing ways. There was plenty of new stuff to please the fans, and a great rendition of the only track on the album to feature P Digiss, ‘Missin’ You’. Quality is quickly becoming a trademark of these boys, along with their, dare I say, melodic tumes with enough bass to keep the Drum ‘n’ Bass heads of this world grinning like the proverbial.
Abrams looked like he was loving every moment, playing on his sax with his dance style almost akin to their newbie, but with a hint of the marching band Trevethick says he used to be in. I can’t say that Trevethick’s guitar twangs were very reminiscent, however, of his days in a metal band…
It was all over too soon; it made my weekend seeing Shapeshifter here again, here’s hoping they continue to visit us as they endeavour to break in to the dance mecca that is Europe.
March 20th, Sub Nine