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A review of...

Guppy by Benjamin Shaw

July 13, 2015
Adam Millard

The gist

Benjamin Shaw comes back bigger, weirder and better.

The music

I'm not usually one for writing reviews for albums where I've missed the release date so comprehensively, but this one was so good I thought I'd give it a belated push.

After playing Guppy through once, I had to go back and listen to Benjamin Shaw's last album Goodbye, Cagoule World again, just to make sure I wasn't going mad. You see, Goodbye, Cagoule World was a bit weird, but all of that weirdness eventually paved way for some beautifully crafted pop songs, with catchy melodies, coyly ambitious instrumentation and relatively traditional structures. Guppy is a whole new world of wacko. Shaw seems to have taken the intriguing interludes from Cagoule, stuck them in a bag and ran with them, as far as he possibly could.

There's still the trademark dashes of DIY strings and atmospheric flourishes, but the abstract elements seem to have risen to the top of the pecking order. And in case you are wondering, I'm seeing all of these things as positives. Whether or not Shaw continues on this path (he himself joking refers to this record as "unlistenable") or goes back down the road of more traditional (but still a bit weird) song-writing is anyone's guess, but for the listener this period should be relished.

Listen to

"Good Arrows" - a mesmerising repetitive, percussive bass line is complemented by occasional electro glitches and some sort of wind-up music box. It goes on for seven minutes without getting anywhere near annoying.