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Shipley Hollow - Infinite Zest

-Review & Stream-

Like me, I’m sure that when you think about the glorious city of Toronto two things come to mind - the Hockey Hall of Fame and and Poutini’s House of Poutine. Right? Right. Well, it’s high time you add The Great White North’s math rock virtuoso’s Shipley Hollow to that list. Infinite Zest by Shipley Hollow was independently released on December 20th. This record is a thoughtful and groove-oriented collection of mathy masterpieces. Every track explodes with energy and a playful vibe - feel-good guitars dancing around notes all over the neck; bass and drums syncopated to a tee that create a rock solid backbone; and vocals bursting with attentive emotion and deep seated sincerity.

Nymph Chimpski” is the LP opener which instantly slams the listener with groovy stop-and-go riffage. If you don’t nod your head to the verse I’d have a hard time believing you were a real human and not some emotionless reptilian overlord.  The vocals are slightly distorted with an airy slap-back echo (a common occurrence on this album). Lyrics are sparse throughout the tune, but that’s fine by me - the instrumentation is a voice all of it’s own. Glass Ceiling” ends up being one of my favorite tunes on the whole album.  It starts off with a drum fill right into a crushingly satisfying part where every instrument is locked in together.  It’s a short tune, the shortest on the album, but it’s jam packed with head-nodding riffs and carefully crafted drums. The muted guitar string “chk’s” in conjunction with the matched up double-kick definitely brought a smile to my face. Listening to the third track, “Slaying the Wooly Ibex” I couldn’t help but imagine Emperor Palpatine saying “The jazz is strong with this one.”  This song intrigues me. Overall, it’s gloriously mathy, but there are these parts interspersed through the track that have a modern new age jazz vibe to them, but could even potentially fit in with an upbeat jam band.  I definitely dig the final part of the track - some aggressive stop-and-go work from the guitar with an other-wordly swell phasing in and out behind the main groove. This offering is a music-nerd’s dream, for sure. Mr. Math Rock himself, Matthew Chan, told me how incredible of a song “Twinkle Daddy” is - and I absolutely cannot disagree with that sentiment.  The opening riff is a fast hammer-on-pull-off/”tapping” type of guitar part with Marcus laying down busy drums which connects the space between Sean and Sean on their stringed instruments. Shouted vocals, tightly woven double-kick driven riffage, and great overall dynamics where riffs get less intense and with that you can really feel and hear the recording brought down a notch in volume to drive that point home.  Starting at about the 3:51 mark the song blossoms out into a full on rock out, aggressive ending that makes me want to be at one of their shows so I can pump my fist once or twice and dance around with a doofus smirk on face. The perfect follow up to the last song is “The Pretenderizer”.  I feel like this one continues along the same vibe at the onset of the track and is, once again, peppered with loud brash portions and downtempo quiet parts and a fair amount of jazz theory weaving its way in and out of everything.  Sean’s vocals tend to be a little softer overall and not as intense as others on the record. But, that’s fine - it fits the riffage of the particular passages that they sing on perfectly. Dizzyingly busy guitars, bass riffs that make one think “who the hell writes bass this good?”, and drums that are brazenly all over the kit at all points in time - boom, you’re listening to “Slobbery Crossfire.” This track is unrelenting, the only reprieve is right from the start. All the instruments snag a few hits right together and then let the guitar dance around before everything all comes back together.  But, that’s it - the whole song just goes off, even when Shipley decides to drop the intensity down the instrumentation is still going off the rails at all points in time. The title track for the record, “Infinite Zest”, comes as the closer. The track opens with liquid guitars that reverberate for days. Those guitars fade out and after a brief two second break the song comes back, yet with a different riff and different intensity. The first verse is spacious with the drums pounding out the rhythm on the floor tom. Sean’s vocals are beautifully eerie and somehow lend to the overarching ethereal quality of the song. There’s a lot to unpack in this one - some sort of synth or electric piano mixed low at times (or maybe it’s a theremin?),  I don’t know, I can’t be sure because it doesn’t stand out in the mix - which isn’t a criticism - I like that the instrument sits in the back and adds some texture. The rhythm towards the end of “Infinite Zest” has this stagger to it as it slowly builds and builds before bursting open into one of the most feel good rocking part on the whole record. This is one of the best / most satisfying records I’ve listened to in a while. Start to finish it’s just amazingly written. Infinite Zest is what I’ve been wanting to hear from a band, I just didn’t realize it’d come in the form of Shipley Hollow. The production is great, stellar songwriting, and the technical ability of the band is mind blowing. This record makes me want to reach out and beg them to tour with my band.  But, in all seriousness, I really do want to see these folks live. With the album being so impassioned, I can’t imagine their live show would be any different. If you’re reading reviews from The Math Rock Times, chances are you’re already plugged into this scene - so, don’t be a fool, give this record a listen ASAP and bask in all it’s Canadian glory! Favorite Tracks:  “Glass Ceiling” & “Nymph Chimpski - Sean. D


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