Shapeless - St. Barbe Review
The sound of St. Barbe, a London-based trio, is undefinable and unique. Their debut EP, Shapeless, shows their aptitude and competence in rock and jazz music. While their primary goal is to taking the harmonic and rhythmic language of jazz and melding it with rock, their sound does not deficit the visceral energy of rock and the uniqueness of jazz. EP includes three songs: Sunfish, also their debut single album reaching over 30k streams on Spotify, Shapeless, and Petrichor. Though “Shapeless” exudes love for the spiraling tapestry of 70’s rock, “Sunfish” takes the listener to an exploration of jazz-rock experimentalism. The result is modern-sounding music from a group of exquisitely talented, forward-thinking musicians who are not bound by any labels but thrive on the simple idea of creating and playing together.
Sunfish, also St. Barbe’s debut single, is a piece fused with 70s rock and jazz. The track starts with sharp and catchy chords on the guitar. After a while, a melody line on the piano accompanies the chord progressions. While the tone of the piano and the melodic sentences used are well-structured, the contemporary aspect of this sound reminds the listener of the fusion masterpiece We Like It Here. Towards the midst, the sound decomposes into melodic/rhythmic parts and slows down which gives an opportunity to St. Barbe members to show their virtuosity and instrumental technique. The most highlighted and well-arranged sections in this part are the piano-bass and piano-guitar arrangements. Drums are always present in these sections, nimbly anchoring the rhythm of the song. Approaching the end of the song, the sound rises and becomes complete with a collective harmony. The mixing in this part is exquisite, providing the listener an entire atmosphere of fusion and jazz.
The second track of the album starts with a deep voice, in which a guitar solo is highlighted. In fact, it can be said that the whole music is a guitar solo backed by bass and rhythm instruments like bass guitar and drums. There isn't a distinctive melodic structure, and it's difficult to understand which section of the piece is playing based on what you hear. That is exactly the type of music that you can hear playing at the background of, say, a bar or a nightclub. The piece has a distinct atmosphere that it manages to establishes. This piece, if played as an ambient song, would definitely enhance a location and make that location unforgettable. The constant highlight on the guitar solo makes it perfect in that aspect. One thing that I will have to mention, however, is that due to the wide frequency range of the piece, you cannot listen, and comprehend, the full characteristic of this piece with a cheap sound system. However, it can be said that this adds to the "premium" feeling of this piece.
The third track petrichor starts with an oceanic EQed tone which draws us into the track. Some groovy and unconventional subdivisions are used making the tune very progressive. The arrangement showcases excellent syncopation, an eastern harmonic approach (Phrygian scale), and skill showcasing solos. The drums are large and groovy, showing some chops. Everything sounds super tight and well balanced. The bass locks in and ties the grove together with excellent feels. The whole thing just floats. The guitar work is impressive with the tone choices and licks. The track has some qualities of something you would hear out of Dream Theater's "Metropolis Pt. 2" Album, however, the sound is definitely more jazz-influenced. There are some special effects here and there in the track making the listening journey more intricate. After a few close listens I can definitely say the track's narration reminds me a great mystery novel.