This is a review of "Cut Out Shapes" recorded by Cut Out Shapes. The review was written by Gerard Leachman in 2014.
It's taken them 5 years but duo Chris Ward (singer) and Chris Wood (guitarist) are finally going to release their debut album. Previously they've received favourable reviews from not only us here at Leeds Music Scene, but also Alan Raw over at BBC Introducing and No Title Magazine. They've also managed to support Chase & Status back in 2011. Not only that but they even worked with esteemed producer / sound engineer Simon Humphrey (The Clash, David Byrne), on this album.
From the start the album Cut Out Shapes' characteristic dark tone is at the fore without being overly depressing. It mixes the wonder and apprehension of treading new territories while retaining a very solid foundation. It does take a second to adjust to Chris' vocals, but when he goes for it it's easy enough to get engrossed in their entire sound. His slight quirkiness becomes pretty characteristic of their whole sound.
Although they have a strong post punk and new wave foundation, they veer off on tangents, like the Dub Reggae track 'Walking Water' and 'Past Lives' (which honestly sounds like a track that was made for space invaders). This is all well and good as Cut Out Shapes pull off each track, to the point where you're wondering how they're going to expand their sound in the future. However it's dark and gloomy that they do best, and the way they wrap up their influences in their own persona establishes that this is a Cut Out Shapes album, rather than them just copying those that came before.
There are an abundant amount of highlights on the album that are mostly due to its composition. To mention a couple, 'Let It Go' is an amazing stand out track on its own, but its placement after the more standard affair of 'Never Change' was too perfect. Yes effects were involved to manipulate is voice, but it goes so high on that track that it was bound to pierce a whole in the ozone layer. There was also the really smooth and chill 'Nightmare', which has some really nice guitar playing and a beat that gently nudges you along. The best thing about Chris Wood's guitar input, is his layering of different guitar effects, and somehow managing to often be at the fore of the sound without being obnoxious about it. You actually have to think about what he's doing to truly appreciate it.
The main problem is its length. It's only 40 mins and although last track 'Past Lives' is a lot of fun, the last two tracks were a little extraneous to listen to. To be fair this is mostly due to the song 'Executive Decision' which was too soppy in nature. It was as if they'd run out of timbres to experiment with and it was the driest song on the album.
All in all this is definitely a project that will keep you going back. It's refreshing to hear a well put together album, one that functions as an album and not just an assortment of singles. There's plenty of tracks that are bound to be a hit live, and there's enough depth here to warrant attention.
Their debut self titled album is being released via independent label D.I Records, and it'll be available on April 21st.