The Dead Shakers - Some Shapes Reappear (Album Review)

Somewhere in the hilly city of Burlington, Vermont, Kevin Bloom is experiencing something profound. Perhaps it's deep thought about the ethics of eating animals or something more personal like the futility of living in the past. Regardless of the specific content of Bloom's mind, it's likely to come out as a psychedelic jam that relies as much on a pop sensibility as it does experimentation. Bloom is the leader of The Dead Shakers, a loosely assembled group that " appears in various formats". The Dead Shakers' second album, "Some Shapes Reappear", was recorded in Bloom's idyllic Burlington (Burlington is one of the few US cities this writer has visited, so excuse the descriptive references, it's not often I can make them without being insincere) on a 1973 Yamaha PM1000 console. The vintage equipment has given the delayed voices, reverberated guitars, and spacey drums the warmth needed to successfully make escapist psychedelia.  

The opening track "My Death" introduces the album as the groovy and whimsical beast it is, with some playful musical sequences giving way to dulcet male/female vocals (courtesy of Lily Seabird). My Life (feat. Overhead Sam) is existentialist philosophy via acoustic-led songwriting and magical stereo effects. "Compost Is The Future (Self)" is a more garage-rock number about death and how we can be more useful as compost than we can as living humans. "Take a Giant Step" is a cool and straightforward song that is embellished with some alluring clarinet by Billy Weaver and flute from Tim Woos. These elements add a fantastical slant to the music, and coupled with the lyrics ("Come with me I'll take you where / The taste of life is green / Every day holds wonders to be seen"), one can imagine being led through a dense forest populated by fairies and magic mushrooms. These first four songs form something like a first chapter and work all sequenced together. 

At five minutes, "Numbers", changes gears and takes the album from its pop-infused songs to more progressive and experimental textures. "Doing The Receptacles" is a focused burst of indie-psych, made brilliant by an incredible snare sound and the ebullient saxophone of Billy Weaver. "Some Shapes Reimagined" is interesting jamming, though relatively throwaway. "Fresh Baguettes" (feat. James Forest) is a cacophony of treated vocals that hypnotize with their layered and reverberated mixing. The album highlight "All the Plants" is a sweet and patient number that doesn't rush to the end. Instead, it cerebrates on the fact that we can live solely off plants and don't need to resort to consuming vertebrates ("Neither us nor the animals have to suffer"). Of course, no one likes the self-righteous vegan, the one who tells others the correct way to live ethically, but Bloom's measured and calm approach makes a compelling argument. The instrumental passage "Darkest Star" sets the scene for the closing track, "Paine's Celery Compound", an epic six-minute-something track that sounds as much Tame Impala as it does Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd and late-career Beatles. A repetitive riff creates a base for the environmental sounds, jazzy drums, and dreamy guitars to soar.  

Through highly stylistic play and expressive writing styles, The Dead Shakers have delivered an album that could be just as of service to an acid trip as it could an evening of philosophical thought in the garden. While not all sounds here are necessary, with some creating rough edges (I'm looking at you, theremin), "Some Shapes Reappear" is a rich and layered foray into the endless possibilities of psychedelic rock that manages to sneak some sweet melodies and song ideas into the mix.