Anarchy & Romance
In the '90s, artist and producer Shantel was arguably the most in-demand downbeat act, a master and connoisseur of exotica/electronica fusion. In the early years of the new millennium he almost singlehandedly invented a new musical genre with global reach that spawned a whole slew of copycats. Now we see him reinvent himself once more and are left wondering where it all fits in. Actually, it's quite simple: Shantel creates a hybrid, bringing together subculture, music history and social history, mixing them with his own creative energy. The end result is an album that reflects his own personal experience and wanders, as he puts it, between pop culture, high culture and street cred. Music history or more precisely the early history of a popular music form that spread internationally, was the thematic focus of the album Kosher Nostra -- Jewish Gangsters' Greatest Hits, an adventurous and ambitious journey through the clubs, cabarets and casinos of the '20s to '60s. Meticulously researched and compiled by Shantel and Oz Almog, the album was highly acclaimed by Martin Scorcese. Whereas his previous albums were conceptually-oriented productions, Anarchy & Romance is his first artist-focused album. His previous albums structured basses and beats with the obvious aim of getting the dancefloor moving. This time, in departing once again from the mainstream to create yet another unique world and a completely new approach, Shantel starts with the live situation to craft a more open sound that is riskier, rougher, rawer -- in short, more colorful. Instead of an emphasis on electronic sounds, it has a more organic, grungy, garage-band feel. Shantel writes and sings all the tracks himself, plays guitar and various other instruments, and uses no samples (with one exception, as described below). He developed the ideas for the songs at random, on his travels or during long hours spent in hotel rooms. In addition to the tight rhythmic structure, the emphasis here is clearly on melodies and harmonies -- with a consistently pumped-up energy level. With frenzied guitar riffs and howling electronic keyboard (in this case a vintage Fender Rhodes piano from the '70s) he deconstructs a boogie into syncopation, fires up a disco number with flamenco rock guitar, and indulges in sheer hedonism with minimalist shuffle beats and a pinch of rockabilly. This is not so much a departure from the Shantel we know, as much as a logical progression. When a child of 1968 casts a glance at the late '50s and early '60s, that period is seen through a prism. One example of this is Shantel's reinterpretation of the fulminant Finnish tango "Letkis - A Touch of Beauty," which is the only track to use a sample. Yet the '60s flavor is constantly fragmented and reworked from a new viewpoint -- otherwise it wouldn't be a Shantel production. Guests on this album are Justin Adams, right hand man and guitarist of Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin) -- the two are currently making music history once more with The Sensational Space Shifters -- Cherilyn MacNeil and Emma Greenfield of neo-folk band Dear Reader, who provided the title-song for the award-winning film Oh Boy, and bass legend Ken Taylor, as well as the string section of the Junge Philharmonie Frankfurt am Main.