When constants are illusory, consistency can be achieved through molding concept on the fly.
It would have been unnatural if Markus Reuter and Tim Motzer didn’t gravitate towards each other at one point, and they did – first in a live-on-the-air environment and then on 2010’s “Descending” and a few more albums that saw the light of day during the following decade of which “Shapeshifters” is the latest offering. Yet while it loops back to the duo’s debut in terms of a groove, this record’s four epics are different due to the presence of Kenny Grohowski who needed to spread his creative wings because the stint with BRAND X failed to provide the drummer with a composer’s place, whereas the soundscapes the two guitarists are adept at allow him not only to play but also to conjure up ever-changing patterns and set aural rooms in perpetual motion. A perfect framework for the shapeshifting the instrumental trio exercise as a form-defying unit.
Shuffling into focus and crackling to shine on the initial area of their operation, the 23-minute “Dark Sparks” doesn’t take a lot of time to expand and push this sonic frontier further and further, as specters of vocals loom large between electric splashes Tim and Markus peel off the frets and Kenny bounces off cymbals before licks and crashes blend into a chugging, increasingly heavy whole. It’s creepy if captivating once stray riffs arrive and vanish and fierce solos are unleashed, yet out of a pulsing bass translucency emerges – fragile and frightening at the same time – and gradually falls into pieces, these debris of a melody that failed to be fully born. But then there’s “Transmutation” to erect a fresh edifice from muscular twang, delicate rhythm and rather tuneful wigouts which aim for noise and eventual applause and end up diminishing their dynamic amplitude only to inflate the squeal again.
Starting from there, “Cyphers” tones down the little ensemble’s avant-garde scope and applies sparser lines to their canvas, so the space the three players create can breathe and fluctuate, showing multiple details that the preceding assault concealed, even though the chthonic roar and percussive thunder aren’t far away from this funereal solemnity. Which is why “Burn To Aether” ignites the erstwhile sparks, by now embers heated by low-end rumble, with a blistering filigree of almost metallic intensity – and that’s when the fun of it all will come to the surface. Recorded in a single session in NYC’s sonic laboratory in August 2019, the trio’s shapeshifting turned out to be a wondrous conspiracy and, hopefully, the start of a new recurring collab.