- The Dead Shakers, All Circles Vanish
(Self-released, digital download)
Who are the Dead Shakers? Depending on the day, they might be a multitude of talented folks culled from Burlington's pan-genre music scene. Other times, the Dead Shakers might only be analog tape enthusiast Kevin Bloom — the amorphous project's primary songwriter, vocalist and mad scientist — playing solo. All Circles Vanish, Bloom's first album under the Dead Shakers name, is the former incarnation and features a cavalcade of Burlington talent: cellist Lauren Costello, Dwight & Nicole drummer Ezra Oklan, Gnomedad saxophonist Dan Rome, Madaila guitarist Walker Allen, State Radio bassist Chuck Fay — the list goes on.
To label the music contained within the album's 11 tracks "psychedelic" is accurate and convenient, but also modest in terms of the wide stylistic breadth covered. Indeed, Bloom and co. revel in swirling, effects-laden tones and digressions into textured, otherworldly freak-outs. But some tunes, when stripped to their essence, could be classified as slacker rock, country, trip-hop and/or avant-garde. Bloom and his associates — in the recording booth and behind the mixer — approach and fuse these disparate styles with heady panache, resulting in a hallucinatory odyssey.
Fittingly, the Dead Shakers' debut begins with a dirge. "A nuclear war's comin'," warns Bloom in drawn-out, monotone syllables on "Accidental Graveyard." Right from the get-go, he's bleak and starkly cynical, manifesting his anxieties both verbally and musically. His vocals align with the track's droning instrumentals.
Moving into "Medfield," a punchy rock number that evolves into a twang-filled, double-time hootenanny, Bloom continues his dour streak. "Not that much is kicking in Medfield," he notes, referring to the infamous former psychiatric facility in Massachusetts. He abstractly relates the hospital's many "ghosts" to the horrific practices that likely took place there during its heyday.
"Neighbors" is a searing wall of sound with overdriven electric guitars, sticky handclaps and thrashing cymbals. The cacophony obliterates Bloom's paranoid lyrics: "Who will be the next one? / My neighbors have an American flag in their window." In a different time politically, the song might be less ominous.
Serenity reigns on the flowery "Brother Stomach." Shimmying hi-hats propel briskly plucked acoustic guitars while humming, reversed samples flit and flutter.
Battered beats and gooey guitar take center stage on the instrumental "Headless." Deep and loose, it balances the airy, beatless half-song "Surfin' Ain't as Fun as It Used to Be," which precedes it.
As the Dead Shakers, Bloom comes into his own as a bandleader, visionary composer and student of the golden age of analog recording. At times, the record's warmth and fuzziness make it impossible to tell that you're listening to something new. Frequently awash in musical mystique and flummoxing lyrics, All Circles Vanish is nonetheless approachable, digestible and invigorating.
All Circles Vanish is available at deadshakers.bandcamp.com.