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Live Review: Shipley Hollow Normal Soup CD Release

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Live Review: Shipley Hollow Normal Soup CD Release

Shipley Hollow at Velvet - Photos: Andre Varty

Shipley Hollow at Velvet – Photos: Andre Varty

When: May 29, 2015
Where: Velvet Underground, Toronto


Visual/Sound Presentation: 7/10
Stage Presence: 7/10
Musical Ability: 9/10
Originality: 6/10
Crowd Reception: 7/10
Wow Factor: 6/10

North American post-hardcore’s shift towards the atmospheric guitar jangle and ragged group hollers of 90’s emo over the past few years has proven remarkably popular. Figurehead bands like The World Is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die have amassed devoted fanbases and considerable acclaim from music blogs. While Canada still has yet to produce a group on this level of visibility, it’s not for lack of cultivation.

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Toronto’s Shipley Hollow occupy the more math-rock end of the emo spectrum, a position they share with fellow GTA-ers Huge Cosmic. A constant presence in the city’s live music scene for three years, the five-piece played a release show for their new album Normal Soup Thursday night at the Velvet Underground.

Shipley sounded forceful and in control despite the complexity of their compositions. Guitarist/vocalists Sean Clarey and Alex Fuchs in particular deserve kudos for their multitasking skills. I’m not sure if everyone not named Marnie Stern can finger-tap and sing at the same time. Drummer Patrick Hamilton seemed to get more and more frenzied as the hour-long set went on.

Keyboardist/vocalist Matthew Fleming served as Shipley’s frontman/emcee for the night. He frequently made in-jokes and quips while introducing songs (“This one is about how bad Alex’s posture is”) but more often he seemed grateful for the modest but packed-to-the-front crowd that came out. The audience themselves, while more active for the openers, generally stood attentive for Shipley’s set. Some of the younger members of the already young crowd came out to dance (in 5/8 time, no less) in the latter half.

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Musically, it’s apparent that Shipley worship at the twin altars of This Town Needs Guns and Tera Melos: dissonant, disjointed guitar riffs propelling fragmented songs towards abrupt or chaotic climaxes. It’s well-worn territory for many a young band. Shipley distinguished themselves through the use of Fleming’s keyboards, which added a Dismemberment-Plan-like electronic element, as well their use of jazzy chromatic chord sequences.

At the set’s close, Shipley drove “Four Person Bikes Are Groovy” into a heavy finish. One of the guitarists began playing the opening riff of the title track from 2013’s Costa Concordia EP to cheers of recognition from the audience. Soon enough, Shipley embarked on an encore they apparently hadn’t planned for, fueled by a few dedicated fans. Shipley is heading out on a month-long tour to support Normal Soup so as far as they’ve come, there’s still lots more to go.



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