21 Apr 2021

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Social Shun - Album Review: What Is Music

04 Apr 2020 // A review by Callum Wagstaff

What is music? It's kind of a rhetorical question. Social Shun asks it and answers it on repeat during the run time of this album. It's a bunch of ambient, industrial and spoken samples recorded on a cell phone and collaged against break beats. What is music? It sounds like bits of Fatboy Slim, DJ Shitmat, The Grassy Knoll and UNKLE. What is music? It's literally a 9 minute story about an intermediate teacher who avoided teaching his music class and in response to being confronted about it, offered this timeless pretension ironically, cracked himself up, and then got fired.

What Is Music achieves total tonal consistency over a range of weird combinations of found sound using a simple and brilliant technique: In almost every song there is basically the same sample asking (stating) "What is Music" with the emphasis on the IS and barely an upwards inflection to be heard. Like the title, it's not so much intended as a question as a jumping off point. The whole album is narratively inspired by one funny moment in history that Social Shun relives at the climax of the title track. That's all Social Shun needed to get his creative juices flowing and I'd argue that repeating the title in every song makes this a concept album. Fight me.

There are lots of times this album reminds me of an old New Zealand TV show I watched once where three entrepreneurs competed to make the most money in an allotted amount of time. The guy who won invested in some good recording gear and made an album of sound effects like Baby Crying and Lawn Mower. At the end of HUGE MAMMOTH Little Whoopy Bird there are bagpipes being played. LUMPY consists of an engine exhaust that becomes rhythmically meditative. The opening song Happy HOOOHARR Friday is made up completely of sounds that wouldn't be out-of-place in an Avant Garde
industrial noise album, which transitions into the sound of rain on aptly named track Rain. By this point you're about 4 minutes into the album which is enough time to start thinking you know what you're gonna get the whole way. But suddenly a break beat kicks in and What Is Music reveals itself. As soon as it made this transition a smile spread across my face.

Each track fades into the next one which heavily implies the intention is for it to be listened to as a whole and the seamless design makes it an immersive experience. This effect is sadly undermined by Bandcamp's buffering beginning at the start of each song. The same problem occurs on slow computers. While there isn't much in the way of vocals, third track Mainstream has a catchy-as-plague refrain that goes "Then a voice comes in and says nothing. Then a voice comes in and says nothiiiing at aaaall." An entertaining nod that the song sounding most like a single is called Mainstream. Another highlight on the album comes after the storytelling track. Apples and Pears is musically catchy and a perfectly placed song to come after the momentum shifting title track. It kicks the beats up into a gear previously unexplored by the tracks before it and opens with a funky overdriven intro that's also different from the conventions used in the earlier half of the album. If What is Music is the track for stopping and catching your breath, Apples and Pears is the perfect song to crank back into it with renewed vigour and intensity.

Social Shun describes his music as "formed to voice free thought with no boundaries or care for what anyone thought." A claim like that implies some kind of controversial ideology or manifesto is involved, but once you get going with What Is Music you realize the guy behind that claim just wants to do whatever he wants to do and he likes what he likes. It's thinking like that which allows Social Shun to bring us an entire album built around one sentence, but encompassing influences from several corners of the sonic universe. It's the best thing since Songs For Seals.

Rating: ( 4 / 5 )

About Social Shun

Social Shun became official after releasing tracks on Reverbnation in 2011 but He has been mucking round with music software and instruments for nine years.

Social Shun is a solo project and was made to release pain, stress, anger, boredom and frustration of day to day living in a positive creative way. The straight forward approach to music and lyrics is key, Promoting honesty and freedom of speech in a raw, direct, in your face fashion. Not shackled to one Genre Social Shun infuses many different aspects and vibes of music.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Social Shun


What Is Music
Year: 2020
Type: Album
7/10 of A Fridge
Year: 2020
Type: EP
Songs For Sea Lions
Year: 2017
Type: Album
Big Gorilla
Year: 2015
Type: Album
The Garden Of Sweden
Year: 2014
Type: Album

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