The sophomore LP from Glasgow’s Nightshift is a study in starkness — a post-punk workout that solders past misfits like Young Marble Giants, Oh-Ok, and Liliput to new outliers like J. McFarlane’s Reality Guest and Sleeper & Snake. The album does a great job of decentralizing the guitar, with rec room echoed vocals and the quiet cry of clarinet playing their way out over loping bass on more than one occasion. There’s a brooding, bedroom dance to the band’s works. Alone and unseen, the walls melt down with a waxen aloofness, but it just masks the vulnerability beneath the surface of the Nightshift’s songs. There are quite a few moments when the smoke curl of distance feels palpable, which is quite apt, considering the album was recorded in individual parts as the band members were segregated from one another over the past year. The isolation doesn’t necessarily get a direct reference, but the feeling of space underscores every minute of Zöe.
The entire album anchors around the seven-minute centerpiece “Power Cut,” a buzzing, undulating piece that untethers from the terra firma to dance in the clouds, high on synth singe and woodwind scuttle. Only the tumbling beat brings the listener back down near land before sucking the humidity out of the room once again for the second side. Here Nightshift let just a little light into their solitude, but we’re once again left scratching cries for comfort in the furniture until the collapse of the closer, “Receipts,” which softens into a sigh as the album pops the light and walks away for good. Perhaps folks aren’t looking for a reminder of how alone we’ve become in the span of 365 days, but for those that always carry a slight air of distance in their hearts, Zöe will feel just right.
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