Matthew Shadley Band – ‘Shaka’

An album out today from the Matthew Shadley Band, Shaka presents a riveting sound that spans from prog-rock excitement to atmospheric ambience. Led by multi-instrumentalist Matt Brauer, the band first caught our attention last year with their impressive album 1970 Something. Now, they continue to showcase strong songwriting and climactic production on Shaka.

“Morpheus Rising” kicks off the album with sweltering intrigue, moving from moody vocals into a bluesy guitar emphasis that continuously expands. The 8-minute epic is a showcase of the band’s eclectic range, traversing a variety of shifts in key, tempo, and tonal intensity. The textured guitar work is especially impressive, particularly as the expressive lead combines with a ghostly, lush backing approaching the three-minute mark. The track’s thematic aim is fitting, representing a journey through dreams with Morpheus, the Greco-Roman god of dreams, who guides listeners across a series of diverse dreamscapes.

The intensity of “Morpheus Rising” is followed in comforting form, by covering a rock classic. The band’s interpretation of Bowie’s “Heroes” stays true to the original’s heartfelt essence while embracing a more free-flowing guitar style, resulting in a lovely rendition. “Slipping Away” brings us back into the project’s unpredictable enjoyments, weaving plucky guitars and serene mellotron for an enchanting introduction. The swell into an anthemic rock spirit proves satisfying, particularly upon the “I can feel it” catharsis into the “tell me when it’s done” organ-touched ardency.

The album’s mid-point enchants with the instrumental track “Stargazing,” whose glimmering synth additions intertwine with a roaring guitar culmination for an atmospheric success, conjuring a sense of prog-rock nostalgia. “The Dawn Patrol” maintains that prog-rock appeal, with bouncy electric piano and jangling guitars moving seamlessly into a harmonious vocal presence. “One for you, and one for me,” they exude during a fantastic, replay-inducing hook. Brauer explains, “The song is written from the point of view of a surfer getting up early with the intent of joining the ‘dawn patrol’ where ‘chasing dreams and riding waves are free.'”

Another instrumental success comes in the form of “Journey of the Whales,” echoing a soaring psych-rock vibe reminiscent of Pink Floyd, as lap steel guitars combine beautifully with tastefully ambient keyboard additions. The closing one-two punch is a fantastic summation of the band’s songwriting prowess. “The Thundering Herd” struts a brisk prog-rock infectiousness, and the finale “Northern Lights” further showcases their instrumental atmospheric prowess. An eerie engrossment develops into a calming array of keyboards and mellow guitar additions. Succeeding in both contemplative soundscapes and rousing rockers alike, Shaka is another thorough success from the Matthew Shadley Band.

Mike Mineo

I'm the founder/editor of Obscure Sound, which was formed in 2006. Previously, I wrote for PopMatters and Stylus Magazine.

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