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"The Pasture, The Oil EP"

Shapes – The Pasture, The Oil EP
29 May 2009, 13:00 Written by Angus Finlayson
the-shapesIt always feels reductive to describe a label as having a 'sound'. In the case of Big Scary Monsters, though, avoiding the issue would be a bit like holding off telling your nan she's still wearing her slippers until you've got on the bus; in other words, easier in the short run but ultimately cowardly and a bit embarrassing.So here goes then: yes, there is a certain way of wielding a guitar which will make you feel right at home with the Oxfordshire-based label. And yes, Shapes do more or less fall into that category. But that casual statement doesn't do the trio's second EP (and first release on BSM), The Pasture, The Oil, justice. Its marriage of the aggression of hardcore and the magpie-like riff-hopping of prog is certainly a tried and tested formula, but within the first few seconds of opening track 'Trampled by a Horse' it becomes clear that Shapes have an energy that is entirely their own.Opening a record with a minute and a half of relentless fret-bashing is a bold statement though, and one that the trio subsequently struggles to uphold: the high-octane riffage that bookends 'Our Childrens Children' becomes alienating in its chop'n'change momentum, whilst the near-headbangable opening to 'Such Stoics' loses energy as it returns to more schizophrenic terrain. When it works, though, it really works; 'The Escapologist' is a definite spot-hitter, maintaining the balance between stadium chug and microscopic, fragmented wigouts with laudable ease.It's in the latter half of this track that the band first reveal their softer side; for a brief moment the bass and drums lock into a mellow groove, creating much needed space. As the EP progresses, other points of repose begin to appear like oases in the Gobi; most notably the ethereal violins at the sinister high-point of 'Our Childrens Children'. Sadly though, The Pasture, The Oil can be a frustrating listen simply because these subtler textures are so under-explored. Shapes seem on the cusp of expanding their sound into something with considerable maturity, but they're not quite there yet. In the process, it's all too easy to stray into hamminess; as the indifferent space-prog of 'The Moon is Bright', but 'Coned Off' demonstrates.The impression given by the EP as a whole is of a three-piece full to the brim with ideas, but still slightly intoxicated by their own technical prowess. Nevertheless, there are worse sins that could be committed by a band so early in their career, and a fair few moments on The Pasture, The Oil suggest that Shapes could be a musical gem which has yet to reveal its full lustre. A name to keep a beady eye on, no doubt. 68%
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