29 Jun 2022
UsernamePassword

Remember Me? | Join | Recover
Click here to sign in via social networking

Substax - Album Review: Linear Shift

26 May 2022 // A review by Steve Shyu

Those familiar with Kiwi dub and breakbeat music will likely be familiar with the name Substax, the electronic musical duo consisting of Nick Farrands and Claudia Gunn, who have been in the scene for well over twenty years. And those not yet familiar with Substax will undoubtedly get a good introduction with their newest full-length release Linear Shift.

At first listen, it’s clear there’s a wide variety of influences to catch throughout the record. From the bleep-boping psychedelia of Computer Seeks Computer (of which there’s a visualiser video available on YouTube), to the delicious pop hooks on Pop Music Emergency, and the trance-heavy namesake tune Linear Shift.

For something more urban, there’s Psyche, or Tea on the Lawn Close Encounters. Shuffling hip-hop rhythms and bouncing bass hooks, woven with deeply atmospheric synths will turn your daily commute into an uplifting journey. It did for me, at least! Substax have spent plenty of time in all these aural realms back in the 2000’s, and it’s always refreshing to hear these styles holding strong.

If coffee-shop-on-a-warm-afternoon is your kind of feel, then look no further than Light as Air, or On the Road. The crisp Euro-house beat, atmospheric synth lines, the hypnotic vocal samples make the songs equal parts energising and relaxing.

The writing and instrumentation on more stripped-back tracks like Time Part 1 and Memory are absolutely exquisite. The latter, interestingly, seems to have been saved for the album closer. The heart wrenchingly sweet vocals, the warmth of the piano, and the retrospective lyrics certainly misted up my eyes. Like a heartfelt blend of the Beatles’s Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds with Steven Wilson’s Collapse the Light Into Earth, both gorgeous songs in their own right, and Memory seems to hold its own on the album, albeit as the closing act on the record.

Vocalist Claudia Gunn’s tenure as a music producer and songwriter shines through again and again proving its worth, as the vocal hooks bravely skip across octaves, in a way that serves the song as well as showing artistic flair.

Many acclaimed albums, as renowned and impactful as they may be, are not without flaws; just what is up with the constant clash of cymbals on Ideas? The soulful melodies and sunny keyboards felt interrupted with hearty uses of crashes and ride cymbals. One also couldn’t help but notice there are a couple of tracks that ramp up with a playful inertia, only to have it end abruptly. 808 Hustle and Where Your Going are examples of this; just as the tune is starting to take form it winds down, leaving the listeners wanting more, after realising it was a mere interlude.

With that said, heavy praise must be given for the peak brilliance that is The Ocean; the vocal delivery is astounding, with keyboards and synths filling every corner. What makes the song so delightfully addictive to listen to is the groove-heavy bass synth matched with the skittering drums. Be sure to hit play on this one. Then a few more times after that.

Also, there’s something spiritual about the experience of listening to Computer Seeks Computer on a good quality set of speakers or headphones up loud with a glass of your favourite, so you may as well add that track to your “Repeat Listens” playlist for future reference.

Linear Shift as a full-length record has a lot to offer, no doubt thanks to Nick and Claudia’s time spent working in different musical environments. A good portion of the tracks dance very delicately on the fine line between soothing and downbeat, but also energising and dance-able. Elsewhere, there are lush layers of keyboards, paired with tasteful vocal melodies and catchy synth hooks. This record isn’t out to show that Substax can rival present-day fandangled electronic outfits, but that they are holding true to their signature styles and still be relevant in the modern sense. And they’re damned good at doing it.

Rating: ( 4 / 5 )
 

About Substax

New Zealand alternative electronic music act Substax are genre bending pioneers of electro soul and breakbeat. Based in Auckland/Tamaki Makaurau, they produce a unique fusion of soul, funk, breakbeat and deep house. Reviewers describe their sound as everything from "epic downbeat" to "achingly beautiful", "seductive" (Remix Magazine) and "speaker cone cracking breakbeat" (Waikato Times). They are renowned both for their downtempo epic downbeat as well as breakbeat influenced club tracks.

The act is the audio duo of producer, Nick Farrands and vocalist/producer Claudia Gunn. Farrands is the co-founder of a boutique club night in Auckland, Videotech, which features the work of VJ and co-founder Rachel Dreyer. Gunn, is an award winning children’s music producer in her own right and brings her singer-songwriter craft to Substax productions.

The act has been involved with numerous compilation releases, renowned music festival and club performances and had strong support from alternative radio and NZ dance music station, George FM, over the years.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Substax

Releases

Linear Shift
Year: 2022
Type: Album
Electro Soul Plane
Year: 2005
Type: Album

Other Reviews By Steve Shyu

MELLIS - EP Review: Escape
14 Jun 2022 // by Steve Shyu
There’s been a retro-wave revival simmering around the world, with groups like Drab Majesty, Gunship, Perturbator, plus Kiwi artists PolarisRadio establishing themselves in various electronic and rock circles. Many have performed live to vast audiences and also racking up healthy amounts of plays on streaming platforms.
Read More...
LVST Night - Single Review: Roller
03 May 2022 // by Steve Shyu
Having recently nailed down releases with the sensational The Not Okays, as well as the mind-twisting alt-rock outfit MIRA, guitar player and songwriter Nori Wong has continued to keep himself occupied. Now trying his hand at producing electronic music, Nori has emerged under a new moniker, LVST Night.
Read More...
Sonic Space Lab - Single Review: Coming Out On The Other Side
26 Apr 2022 // by Steve Shyu
Based in Dunedin, Venezuelan producer and sound engineer Luis Rodriguez has been amongst the Aotearoa music scene since 2018, and he doesn’t appear to have lost steam along the way. His latest offering is entitled Coming Out On The Other Side, a new venture in which he places more focus on instrumental, electronic music and less on the structures of conventional songwriting.
Read More...
Lauren Gin - Single Review: Remedy Feat. Janayah
14 Mar 2022 // by Steve Shyu
Lauren Gin has her goals set high. She has confessed that ever since the age of 20 she’s determined to set her name among the world of Kiwi producers.
Read More...
Celeste Music - Single Review: Celeste
03 Mar 2022 // by Steve Shyu
Though the album was released last year, it’s not uncommon for artists to retroactively release songs or submit to publications. The song of choice, interestingly, is the final song off the LP Let's Go, simply entitled Celeste.
Read More...
Metrosideros - Single Review: If This Be Love
02 Mar 2022 // by Steve Shyu
Steve S AKA Paul T Gheist was honoured to be invited into the Metrosideros camp for a hearty sample of their newest single If This be Love. Having not sat down with a cup of tea and some electro-dub music in years, Steve was completely and utterly all ears as he delved in.
Read More...
Solo Ono - EP Review: Lavender
06 Dec 2021 // by Steve Shyu
Poneke/Wellington three-piece garage rock act Solo Ono recently unveiled their newest effort, the EP Lavender. Recorded in Newtown, Wellington by Warwick Donald, mastered by Mike Gibson, and boasting a dazzling cover art by Tristam Sparks, the collection of tunes is set out to be the group’s best effort yet.
Read More...
Scalper - Single Review: Toxicity Toxifies
08 Nov 2021 // by Steve Shyu
There appears to be no down-time for artists like Scalper. Album after album, one impressive single after another.
Read More...
View All Articles By Steve Shyu

NZ Top 10 Singles

  • GLIMPSE OF US
    Joji
  • RUNNING UP THAT HILL (A DEAL WITH GOD)
    Kate Bush
  • JIMMY COOKS
    Drake feat. 21 Savage
  • AS IT WAS
    Harry Styles
  • GO (GODDARD. REMIX)
    Cat Burns
  • VEGAS
    Doja Cat
  • FIRST CLASS
    Jack Harlow
  • ABOUT DAMN TIME
    Lizzo
  • I LIKE YOU (A HAPPIER SONG)
    Post Malone And Doja Cat
  • STICKY
    Drake
View the Full NZ Top 40...
muzic.net.nz Logo
100% New Zealand Music
All content on this website is copyright to muzic.net.nz and other respective rights holders. Redistribution of any material presented here without permission is prohibited.
Report a ProblemReport A Problem