Friday, August 9, 2013


Shahs. We call them ours. True Shahs is a Minneapolis transplant, but in a town as transient as Missoula, when we see the first tendrils and nodes begin go form, we lay claim. Formed in 2005 as a solo project by Tom Helgerson, Shahs has morphed into an ensemble of insanely talented musicians. Currently, Shahs is Tom, Colin Johnson, Nick Ryan, and Javier Ryan.

It's hard for me to encapsulate Shahs in a simple turn of phrase. A few quick hits on the interwebs reveal wonderful words like "tropicalia," but, as with all things, it's a nice attempt but falls short. For me, Shahs is like peering behind the curtain and witnessing a million architects assemble something out of the primordial mass. Shahs mines it, breaks it down, processes it, and erects it.

Sort of like the doozers in Fraggle Rock. Perpetually building and rebuilding, looping and connecting a variety of a machine and vocal beats, stabilized with layers of reverb, delay and distortion. Mix in the smoothness of Johnson and the Ryans (no relation) and things get silky real quick.

Are we the Fraggles? Probably not, and I'd rather leave the metaphor right at the Doozers.

It's been awesome to witness Shahs reconfigure its line-up since Tom moved to Missoula a few years ago (late 2009? early 2010?). There's an immediacy to the music, something that grabs you, but also pleasingly leads you through new territory. It's complex and layered, teetering on the brink of abstraction. All in all, Shahs live sets are the rare instance when you witness compositions. It's a strange time-lapse of the life of the cosmos (or something) ... The music expands, contracts, deconstructs itself, reconfigures itself, lassos nuances from the margins, inverts time ... you know, it's breezy cubism, an existential breakfast with an irresistible beat. Catch them on Friday at Freecycles.

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