Inspired by a stint opening for Italian prog rock legends Goblin on their first ever North American tour, Pittsburgh duo Zombi have returned to the stripped-down setup of their early albums, with Steve Moore doing double duty on bass guitar and analog synthesizers and A.E. Paterra holding down the drum kit. Prior to the Goblin tour in 2013, the duo hadn't played live since 2007 and took advantage of the capabilities of studio recording, adding an extra layer of multi-tracked guitars to 2009's Spirit Animal and embracing their Italo-disco side on the more dancefloor-ready Escape Velocity (2011). The duo also branched out and explored their many influences with a multitude of side projects, with Paterra creating Krautrock/kosmische sounds as Majeure and Moore keeping extremely busy with ambient albums, soundtrack work, and techno 12"s under his own name, as well as synth pop (Miracle) and Italo-disco (Lovelock, Gianni Rossi) projects. Shape Shift sounds closer to a live album than anything else that precedes it in the Zombi discography, capturing the essence of their performances rather than relying on studio trickery. The album doesn't have as much of an overt horror soundtrack influence as some of their prior albums, recalling the more Rush-inspired sound of releases like 2006's Surface to Air. And even if the album isn't as explicitly disco-influenced as Escape Velocity, it's hard to deny that there's a steady groove to tracks like "Mission Creep," which has a funky bassline while still clearly sounding like prog rock. "Toroidal Vortices" sounds even more groove-happy, with steady midtempo four-on-the-floor beats, rubbery bass guitar lines, and arpeggiating synths. The track switches gears in the middle, complicating the rhythm for a few minutes before returning to the shuffle beat. The eight-minute "Interstellar Package" is the closest the album gets to sounding like a mini film score, building an eerie, tense atmosphere with burbling bass synths for the first two minutes before pausing and ominously creeping around for the remainder of the song. The album ends with the slow 15-minute crawl of "Siberia II," the sequel to a 2006 B-side that sounded like the beginning of a zombie apocalypse; here, it sounds like an entire graveyard full of undead have risen and taken over the town, and are pretty much running business as usual. Likewise, Shape Shift finds Zombi returning to their earlier sound and reliably crafting sturdy, horror-tinged neo-prog.
(LP - Relapse Records #RR 73152)
Review by Paul Simpson
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2