Supergroups are not always the greatest idea. Looking through lists of “The best supergroups ever” only one or two stand out to us as being real successes (Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young). There are so many pretentious car crashes and bland MOR combinations that it’s refreshing when one comes along that actually just works. Nightshift, from Glasgow, features a glowing cast from the UK underground scene: Andrew Doig (Robert Sotelo, Order Of The Toad), David Campbell (formerly of I’m Being Good), Chris White (Spinning Coin), Eothen Stern (2 Ply) and Georgia Harris. Given the mass exodus in recent years from London to Glasgow, the city is a growing melting pot of outstanding creatives.
Formed in 2019, we completely missed their self-released full length debut last year and will certainly visit that in retrospect.
Nightshift pieced Zöe together during lockdown in 2020, recording separately in home studios, passing on loops and layering wild ideas over the top. Somehow it sounds incredibly cohesive and very well produced.
Moody chanted opener “Piece Together” is delicate and almost meditative. It revolves around a simple early dEUS-like bass groove and somewhat deceives us as to what to expect. “Spray Paint the Bridge” is fabulously crooked. The simple wonky chord sequence and rhythm matched vocal are kind of from the Terry school of pop. The jazzy clarinet touches are fantastic. Reminiscent of fellow Glasgow band Kaputt, but without the strut.
The early dEUS style sounds (of course this is just our frame of reference) return on “Outta Space”. The odd slight bends and harmonics recall tracks like “A Shocking Lack Thereof” and “Great American Nude”.
That is kind of where the comparison ends, however.
The spacey vocals and glorious swooshing synth wobbles create an almost trip hoppy feel. It’s subtly playful.
“Make Kin” is more upbeat. The dirty bass sound creates a satisfying texture in a kind of no-wavey “Need New Body” groove. It’s the most in your face track to this point. Nightshift take a slightly more poppy turn with the Doig led “Fences”. His glorious almost-yawn is always a pleasure to hear, particularly when the melodies are so Nilsson-esque. Musically it still has an open jam feel that marries nicely with the rest of the album.
“Power Cut” is absolutely glorious. The buzzing synth drone and Talking Heads rhythm section sprawl outward to a wonderful upbeat and euphoric climax that takes in Sacred Paws style feel good melodies, My Bloody Valentine wall of sound and a triumphant 80s Springsteen synth line. The chorus vocal weirdly reminds us of Adam Ant’s “Prince Charming”(!)
This is followed by the eerie twinkle of “Infinity Winner” which has a hint of The Sea and Cake to it. The staccato keys and gorgeous guitar line backing up Doig’s almost mournful sounding vocal. “Romantic Mud” is scattered and fusion-y like prime Tortoise with almost cultish vocals and a bizarre, waspish synth sound in the chorus. This choppy approach follows into the title track “Zöe”. The 5/4 rhythm slowly becomes meditative as the muted guitar strum and tripped up drum pattern take hold like a hamster constantly running on a wheel.
The vocals sit somewhere between the beauty of Bas Jan and the chant along delight of the aforementioned Sacred Paws.
Like all good things, this must come to an end, and Nightshift shut up shop with the understated and dreamy “Receipts”.
Knowing that this was all achieved in lockdown is remarkable. Throughout Zöe the band sound completely in tune with each other. Each song grows in such an organic way it feels more like the product of several honed group jam sessions.
This is a truly special album by a fantastic group of musicians. With every listen we’re immersed further into their cyclical world. An absolute must!
You may enjoy this if you like:
dEUS, Kaputt, Sacred Paws, Trash Kit, Bas Jan, Tortoise, Talking Heads, Robert Sotelo