Shake Stew, Lila Review
In the ever-evolving exploration of modern world music, a new ensemble has an exciting and intricate sound that captivates; meet the Austrian ensemble Shake Stew. Their latest offering, Lila, released on October 13, 2023, under the aegis of Traumton Records, is a fine collection of songs and shows their relentless pursuit of musical innovation and excellence.
At the heart of Lila is the ensemble’s core configuration – a unique amalgamation of two drummers, two bass players, and a trio of horns, painting a sonic landscape that is as diverse as it is harmonious. This distinct setup provides a fertile ground for exploration, allowing each track to blossom into a full-bodied musical experience.
The album starts with its title track, “Lila,” which immediately sets the tone for its journey. Here, Lukas Kranzelbinder’s double bass melds seamlessly with Oliver Potratz’s Fender Bass VI, creating a sonorous bedrock over which the horns – deftly handled by Johannes Schleiermacher, Mario Rom, and Astrid Wiesinger – lay down a melody that is both relaxed and intricately woven. The track exudes a funky world groove, rich in textures and rhythms that are unmistakably fresh, yet deeply rooted in the world jazz tradition.
“Detroit,” another standout piece, is a sound picture of the streets. Its opening electronic sounds mimic the bustling energy of a busy cityscape, a backdrop against which Pirker’s drums and Dolp’s log drums add a rhythmic complexity. Kranzelbinder’s guembri takes center stage, leading a tribal dance that evolves into a groove of cross-rhythms and melodies. This track is a celebration – a jubilant, rhythmic fiesta that invites listeners to join in its dance.
Finally, “Heat (Live)” encapsulates the energy and spontaneity of Shake Stew’s live performances. The interplay between Pirker’s drums and Dolp’s log drums creates an infectious rhythmic backdrop, over which Kranzelbinder weaves melodic guembri lines. The horns, led by Schleiermacher with support from Rom and Wiesinger, alternate between composed melodies and improvisational flights, showcasing the ensemble’s remarkable ability to balance structure with freedom. The piece builds to a climactic ensemble, marked by a rhythmic motive that crescendos into a celebration of world jazz and its myriad influences.
In Lila, Shake Stew brings their tradition of high-energy performances and hypnotic grooves but has also ventured into new realms. The inclusion of Precious Nnebedum’s spoken word on “Not Water But Rest” and the synergistic collaboration with producer Marco Kleebauer have opened doors to new musical dimensions, enriching the band’s already vibrant palette.
As a whole, Lila flows like a journey through the landscapes of jazz, blues, rock, and world music, masterfully crafted by musicians at the peak of their creative powers. For those who seek to explore the depths of musical fusion, there are always new horizons to discover in Shake Stew.
October 13, 2023