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Shit & Shine
Malibu Liquor Store Oliver Cookson , October 8th, 2020 08:19

The latest from Shit and Shine evokes a "Steely Dan covers band made up of malfunctioning automatons", finds Oliver Cookson

For Texas-based Shit and Shine, curveballs are very much the name of the game. Veering from mucky noise rock dirge to gurning slabs of techno, Craig Clouse is uninterested in the self imposed restrictions of genre. Across Shit and Shine's output he's proven himself as equally adept at twisting melons as dislocating limbs. Thankfully, on Malibu Liquor Store mind-mashing intensity and rhythmic bombardment are both present in spades.

The album opens with the cinematic title track, a krautrock scene-setter revealing a torrid, burnt-out landscape. The groove is urgent and twitchy with effected guitar, reverberating percussion and plonking piano jabs fleshing out the space. You can feel the heat but it's more akin to debilitating sun-stroke than lounging poolside with a cocktail in hand. 'Rat Snake' pushes deeper into the scorched terrain, building tension with trebly guitar splashes and gritty synths revving up for action.

There are moments of whimsical innocence on tracks like 'Chervette', with its jazzy flute and string arrangement. It could easily soundtrack a pleasant stroll in the park if it weren't for Shit and Shine's trademark digital debasement. Stuttering drums and needle-skip samples give the impression of a Steely Dan covers band made up of malfunctioning automatons. Album linchpin 'Hillbilly Moonshine' ramps up the dread again with ten-plus minutes of seedy motorik workout music, like a fever dream in which you're jogging through the charred remains of skid row, chased by an unseen entity. Synths wobble, a dial tone beeps and faulty circuitry crackles and hisses. This is not the chainsaw guitar assault of August's speaker-destroying Goat Yelling Like A Man but it's no less unnerving. The finger-clicking smoothness on album closer 'Barbara and Woodrow' simply compounds the feeling of unease.

The desert-meets-the-dancefloor soundscape of Malibu Liquor Store calls to mind another, equally arid album, 2017's Concrete Desert, the excellent collaboration between The Bug and Earth. While stylistically the similarities are few, the parallel is apparent in the psychogeographic impulses of their creators. In an interview with tQ, The Bug's Kevin Martin spoke of a desire to "sonically map a visual terrain". In the case of Concrete Desert this terrain was the real world city of Los Angeles. On Malibu Liquor Store we're presented with a more fluid map of hallucinatory territory. It's an ever-shifting space in which familiar sonic markers are glimpsed only fleetingly as the listener is pushed onwards by the perpetual motion of the Can-style rhythms.

If you're seeking a grounding tonic for unsettling times then you're out of luck - Shit and Shine spiked the punch bowl. Entering the woozy, k-hole world of Malibu Liquor Store is a disorientating experience. This record won't cure your psychic ills, but immersion in its blistering grooves and digitised meltdowns will certainly help you forget them for forty minutes.