Available on: Frozen Border
Bargain – in an interesting move, it turns out UK duo Szare’s debut album is in fact two debut albums. Lost Shapes and Carved In Those Dancing Gravestones come packaged as a pair, with the former supplied on vinyl and the latter on accompanying free CD.
As discrete cuts of dancefloor material, Lost Shapes is aimed at DJs. It’s also very generous; despite being six tracks long (i.e. an EP), it has the runtime of an album, with 43 minutes spread across two 12”s. The tracks here are brooding, shadowy two-step and tech-house offshoots, plenty of skin drums paired with bursts of 909, nasal bass growls, wobbles and ominous, Carpenter-like synths. Think Beneath, Skull Disco, Horsepower Productions, Spatial.
As its title suggests, Carved In Those Dancing Gravestones is quite different. Its track names, possibly from found text, are vivid fragments of a purposefully hidden story, reminiscent of both late-’90s Regis and Indiana Jones: ’Small Pieces Of It Were Scattered Across the Mountainside’; ‘Radio Silence in Buenos Aires Did Not Allay Fears of a Cover Up’; ’It Was Sent to a Vault in Zürich and Has Not Been Seen Since 1945’; and more.
The music starts in a similarly eerie manner, all dark, pastoral ambience growing into a field recording of indigenous music in ‘They Carried It Back from Recife to Frankfurt by Zeppelin’. But the beats that grow under this evolving narrative are… well, you could almost call them ‘tribal tech-house’, if that’s a thing. By the time ‘The Miners Told Nobody of Their Discovery’ comes around, you’re listening to a positively jaunty, zappy shuffle completely divorced from its title.
From here, it quickly becomes clear that what seemed to be a concept album is actually more like a rolling mix. At 63 minutes of similarly styled material it’s pretty long and could have done with some editing, especially in places where it starts sounding like an Ableton Live set. But these are decent quality productions, and while the entertainingly lofty concept is difficult to match up, it’s certainly never cynical.
Still, if this double pack is an indication of how prolific they are, Szare could afford to save the dance material for the occasional razor sharp EP and take the conceptual side of their output way further, embracing the weirdness that contemporaries like Shackleton have. They’ve got the ideas and ability to tell a far stranger story yet.