ShadowBox – Haunted By ColorsPosted by Aaron Sharpsteen
Crafting memorable electronic music in the current climate is a tall order. Even bands who tend towards more traditional instrumentation have decided to add samplers, voice modifiers, and drum machines into the mix, to say nothing of the advancements being made every day in the realm of people who solely manipulate sounds electronically. ShadowBox is Brooklyn resident Bonnie Baxter’s attempt to insert herself into this unforgiving terrain, and she succeeds for the most part on the strengths of the two best songs of her six song release.
The E.P’s vinyl release is structured as two sides of three songs each, and the two leading songs on both sides are the standout songs of the album. The opener and lead single, “AM,” is a club hit waiting to happen, starting out with syncopated bass drops and droning synths in the background while Baxter sings clearly and a bit seductively. After the first minute, more layered synths start to pile on top of each other, each playing off the other, before a faster beat drops around minute number two. The synth lead that makes its way into the song around the two and a half minute mark is meant to have hands in the air and heads bobbing instantly, and from then on it is all reminiscent of an awesome time at a club while on some kind of euphoric. “AM” is a great opening statement.
The other highlight, “Let’s Not,” is the first song on the B side, and once again shows off Baxter’s producing and vocal skills equally well. While the vocals on “AM” and “Let’s Not” both soar at times, on the latter Baxter shows a more classical vocal style, and the music is there to add a backdrop to her pleasant voice. In “AM” her voice is a cool accessory to an already great electronic song. In “Let’s Not,” the music is the accessory for most of the song, while her vocals do most of the work.
It isn’t exactly the case that the rest of the songs on the EP are throwaways, they simply do not achieve the balance or focus of the two standout tracks. Baxter’s vocals on “D 60″ seem just a bit affected, not as natural or at ease as in “Let’s Not,” and the back beat doesn’t do enough to hide the affectation. “Loveless Child” has an interesting and at times unsettling sonic backdrop, but this time the vocals don’t just seem affected, they actually distract from the music by being simultaneously unintelligible and too high in the final mix. “Running Like a Ghost” might get Baxter some Gonjasufi comparisons but her voice has neither the gravitas nor the inherent mysticism of Ecks’, and regardless, a sufi would never sing something like “I’m lying in my bed, thinking, “What is my purpose?” I wish we’d never met.”
“Haunted By Colors” is overall an effective and satisfying musical statement, though it does have its miscues. Flawed as it may be, when Baxter finds the right balance between soundscape production and vocal quality, the results are memorable at the very least.