Every once in a while a record comes along my path and I'm instantly guided inward, like the gravitational pull of a dark star. "No Shape" from the inspired Perfume Genius is exactly that sort of magic. I'm admittedly not too familiar with the back catalog or history of Mike Hadreas, better known as the Seattle based artist Perfume Genius, but nonetheless ecstatic and available to accept the joy that his most recent record "No Shape" brings to the table.
It seems as though almost by some swift twist of fate that I'm constantly attracted to the world of Blake Mills. I am a huge fan of Mills' production elements as well as his own craft of song and tones. He's an incredible guitar player and multi-instrumentalist. Put plainly, I often seek out anything he does in an effort to further a love affair with the fragile pieces he puts together on his own, or with another artist. Finding "No Shape" however was not of that typical musical hunt -- I had no idea that Blake Mills co-produced this record with Hadreas until I started listening. In a world where we almost always know everything before stepping forward, I'm extra pleased at this experience. Simply put, the record is an immense joy, filled with the familiar and ground breaking.
"No Shape" opens with the stark piano of "Otherside" and then within a moment, like being in the middle of a star being born, explosions of light and melody take form. A brilliant way to embrace the beginnings of a beautiful journey through this melodic adventure.
Songs like "Slip Away" and "Valley" sit within a familiar vein of post-Elliot Smith craft, adding that tactile emotion of having the song right in front of you while being completely unsure of where it might take you.
The pulsing tones of "Wreath" or the sparse rhythmic (yet incredibly forward moving) production of "Sides" and "Die 4 You" really show the deepness of this record. There is a sonic through line but nothing is as expected. It's as toothsome as it gets here, within every song is a well crafted emotional and gripping listen. There's that yin and yang of the deep groove matched with the most delicate vocal melody or instrumental interlude.
Two of my personal favorites on "No Shape" are as I am often attracted to, conflicted and not similar in voice or tone. "Choir" is a very dark and brooding piece, complete with otherworldly orchestral movements and Madreas' spoken word as though he's speaking to you from the far reaches of his own darkness. "Run Me Through" however is a fat and juicy, vintage, slow-paced and soul-groove, walled in with tremolo Rhodes piano and percussion. It's something you could see playing in your mind's eye (or rather ear) whilst walking down a sunlit and dusted road. It's mean man, and it's not trying to be --- it just is and that's what makes it so damn good.
All in all The Perfume Genius' "No Shape" is in my opinion an early classic. A record I didn't expect to come down my pike and I couldn't be more elated that it did. It reaffirms my personal belief system that I must continue to hold my ear to the ground and to the wide open spaces that new music flows through. My musical mantra is that "I eat music for breakfast" and quite honestly, "No Shape" is not only that breakfast, but also lunch, dinner, and the icing on the cake. A landmark piece of work that has opened my doors to yet another incredible artist I'll have the joy of learning much, much more about.