June 10, 2014

Review: The Wrong Shapes | Reverse The Phase

The unlikely but bewitching pop sounds of Boston duo The Wrong Shapes endlessly blossom across the 10 songs of this full-length debut, like a fractal opening into perpetuity. The evocative music wrought by wife-and-husband unit and city scene veterans Rachel and Bo Barringer may be limited in their capacity to illustrate infinity only by their minimalist framework. But even so the collection's thrilling aural reach exceeds its grasp, and taken in sum its songs are much more than an illumination of thousands of small gestural iterations. While touchstones such as the music of Arthur Russell and certain solo work of David Byrne feel obvious, there is nothing obvious about Reverse The Phase. The charming set's mystery, beauty and even sedate pageantry distinguishes The Wrong Shapes' work even within the exceedingly rich Boston music ecosystem.

The Wrong Shapes weave hypnotic compositions from resonant bowed cello, skeletal guitar leads, hand and canned percussion and gentle vocal arrangements. From these elements the pair conjures stirring pop moments, as in the buoyant (and obliquely Jim Morrison-referencing) album highlight "Alright, Alright." But the pair's greater achievement may be the thrumming ambience that cloaks the entirety of Reverse The Phase -- particularly its brilliant instrumental "Actual Girls" and transcendent closing title track -- in a bright and optimistic psychedelia. Perhaps it is the feel conveyed by the attack of the bow across the cello string, but there is a physical dimension to certain of the playing, as well, which firmly roots songs like "My Laugh Is Simple, Your Hips Are Complicated" to a more distinct reality. Ms. Barringer's cello work, in particular, suggests a laborer's craftsmanship, despite an overall soft affect to the music of Reverse The Phase. The Wrong Shapes, fortunately, do not make the listener choose between pop or psych or ambient or rooted: the aesthetics co-exist -- even seamlessly merge -- in a way that suggests, well, the ideal of a marital partnership. Such an abstracted assessment may overlook the humor in the act's music (the song title "My Aim Is Terrible," of course, is a winking riff on the Elvis Costello lyric from "Alison.") and minimize the duo's brilliant composing and arranging. Indeed, there is much to hear in this record, which seems to find new ways of revealing itself with every listen.

The Wrong Shapes self-release Reverse The Phase today as a digital download. The duo fetes the new collection with a release party June 18 at the legendary Club Passim in Cambridge, Mass. The show includes sets by Boston folk rock leading lights The Grownup Noise, for which Ms. Barringer also plays cello, as well as Patrick Coman and the Lo-Fi Angels. Complete details can be found within this Facebook event page. Reverse The Phase is available for purchase right here, and you may stream the entire set via the Bandcamp embed below.

The Wrong Shapes: Bandcamp | Internerds | Facebook

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