Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
Shapers' song "Virginia Reel," feels like these Chicagoans took a month's worth of 911 emergency call sirens, all of the city's ambulances and police cruisers blaring away and tossed them into a meat grinder with a thousand or so televisions, still plugged in, trying to be on, trying to survive the sharp cleaves. It's a dust storm full of booming beats and razor blades, just working itself into a lather. It's a song, along with the 7-inch's b-side, "Happy Birthday Polywog" that takes the group into a slightly changed environment, where they're experimenting with the sounds of a grungy Seattle circa the 1990s, but also flavoring it all with a fractured and somewhat noisy Dischord/Washington, D.C., temperament, circa the 1980s. Then again, there are all kinds of other things happening in the mixes that align the band, which includes Steve Reidell of The Hood Internet, to nothing in particular, other than a continually surprising meandering through all manner of sound and style. It's a take on the creation of sound that allows Shapers to live up to its name and then some, with a constantly moving target being aimed for, with the music that's produced being a squall of ambitious and swerving treatments. They create fingerpaintings that were in no way, shape or form, planned out. They follow up one expression with whatever comes next, whatever's the first idea that comes to mind and they massage it until it works, rounding the sharp corners so that they become like round pegs.
"Virginia Reel" and "Happy Birthday Polywog," both of which appear in this session, are two of the band's newest creations and they feel harsher and moodier, able to lash out and slash. They feel like suns exploding and the aftermath of what that might be like, should it ever happen. They feel hopped up on some chemicals running through bodies and giving their inhabitants no choice but to deal with bloodshot eyes and little to no sleep. "Virginia Reel" starts off normal enough, only to taper into a kind of frightful world of hallucinations and dramatic climate changes as we're roller coastered into a place that feels icy and almost forbidden. We're struck, almost immediately, that we've entered somewhere that we don't belong and might not be able to pull ourselves out of. There's a degenerative feeling as we hit the halfway point and we start to feel awfully out of our heads. "Happy Birthday Polywog," on the other hand, doesn't even give us the chance to be surprised by where we wound up. We're just there from the start and we feel like the inmates are running the asylum. Shapers seem to have found a way to make us feel exactly how we do when we're dreaming, or nightmaring, and we're being chased, everything's escalating into a point of it getting more and more desperate and bleak. We are sensing that we're trapped - that we're not going to outrun the monsters/people behind us and the soundtrack is getting its momentum, just to reach that hot, hot fever when we bolt awake gasping and sweaty.