Maku - Shaku (Album Review)
Updated: Feb 16
13 February 2020
Album Rating 5 / 5
Live Potential 5 / 5
Solo Performances 5 / 5
Diversity in Songs 4 / 5
Favourite Songs Hot Rod, Explosive, (J)as Per Usual, Scraps
Leeds 6-piece frog-rock groovers Shaku have self released their debut album Maku, as the album is a divine representation of their creativity and musicianship which shines through even more so in their stellar live performances.
The group have a fantastic genre-fluid identity that sees them slip down the cracks between Canterbury scene prog, classic blues, funk-rock, UK jazz and epic old school rock. Having interviewed them back in May 2019, the band were ready back then to record after two years of relentless gigging, warfare, bloodshed and liquid consumption, and they did so live at The Nave Studios, Pudsey, and also in a living room in Burley. The theme of the album is a timeline of Shaku, covering a lot of musical and lyrical ground that each represent a different period in the band which has evolved over time, both together as a group and as individuals.
With Shaku the music is a lived experience, and the eight tracks on Maku are extensions of their live shows. The freeness of the album perfectly captures their high-energy, wacky performances where the band bring a party every time. Maku is an album to experience in the moment. Bassist Kieran Halpin explains:
“The songs from this album were adapted many times from our live shows, how we felt the energy was at certain points, adding in new melodies and things like that. I think once we had got to a certain point it just felt like it was time to release them into the wild as a completed album."
The marvellously weird energy that Shaku emanate is captured perfectly in their second single and album opener 'Explosive', a song that drives forward constantly but is supported by a wonderful music video that demonstrates just because you have big ideas and exceptional musicianship, your music doesn’t need to lose its sense of humour. A kung-fu extravaganza ensues in the video and the song matches perfectly as if it was written for the short film, as it captures the sense of anticipation of something dramatic is going to happen, which definitely does in the rest of the album.
'Scraps' is the next song on the album, another rock journey which when listening alongside 'Explosive' has a similar grand feeling to it as the group combine their big rock phrases easily with rhythm changes and colossal soloing. The group seem to thrive in creating epics and '(J)as Per Usual' continues this but with a stronger jazz feel (despite it being in 7/4 time) coupled with wailing-kinda guitar and Ben Caton's hypnotic sax riffs that trickles on top of the rhythm section. Jasper Green polishes off a keys solo as if he's Joe Armon-Jones, Caton responds with an equally impassioned solo and Noiak Bedirian thrusts his guitar spectacularly to round off a superb tune that demonstrates their individual craftsmanship on their instruments.
'Still Hung Up' is a clear nod to their blues influences as this is extremely reminiscent of Big Brother and the Holding Company, with Bedirian producing a heartbreak soliloquy that sums up his confidence, commitment and enthusiasm to being a complete frontman who does not leave anything out of a performance. Both this song and '(J)as Per Usual' have live sessions on the band's YouTube channel which highlight how they keep it fresh live. 'It'll Happen To You' showcases Caton on the sax shining through as he purrs over the shimmering keys sound at the start, before he weaving another journey of wonder. Green starts an arpeggiating phrasing on the keys that develops into another epic.
'Hot Rod' begins with mysterious, brooding keys that loom ominously after Bedirian announces to Frank, "I'm gonna beat you to death!". The song is like a lost, sinister B-side from The Doors as Rob McNicholas and Bedirian intertwine some dark, sexy guitar riffs together whilst bassist Halpin and drummer Jack Hespe maintain a deep groove throughout. Green signals out a twisty, bending synth spectacular that shudders psychedelic beauty, and this allows the pace to be increased before coming full circle back into the ominous sounds of the intro - this is the standout track of Maku. 'Running With My Baby' is a familiar song often heard at their shows, and the acoustic cut offers an anthemic end to the album where Bedirian once again scats over the rhythm to provide an extra layer of melodic flavour.
Shaku break the shackles of negativity and use music as a freeing-force to express their very unique sound, while not taking themselves or their work too seriously. This is seen further in their fourth track 'Wow' as they self applaud and congratulate their efforts on the album only halfway through. Having had ‘Scraps’ featured on Emily Pilbeam's BBC Introducing in West Yorkshire show, Shaku have started to promote their album already with tour dates in Chorley and Manchester, before they have their homecoming album launch this Saturday 15th February at the Brudenell Social Club alongside a busy month of tour dates booked (see details below).
Maku offers new elements to explore on each listen, as they merge their psychedelic, rock, and jazz influences to create a masterful piece of music that intertwines slick soloing with entrancing riffs and ninja grooves, offering a new dimension to their standing as already unforgettable live performers. The record revels in nostalgia but is always existing in the present, as Halpin goes on to explain:
“We want to blend the feeling of nostalgia with an essence of a new discovery! We strive for people to want to show other people out of the joy of the vibe and music of this band. A lot of love went into this record, and not, really, much else. We’d love for people to feel that and want to share that with other people.”
Their love is brimming out of every note played - a rare and unrivalled delight from the current crop of fantastic Leeds musicians.
You can buy and listen to Maku here:
You can keep up to date with Shaku here:
You can catch live sessions and music videos of Shaku here:
They are on tour at the following venues and dates (click on the link for more details):
19th Feb – Sheffield, Yellow Arch Studios 22nd Feb – Kent, Deal, The Lighthouse
29th Feb – Clitheroe, SMSJ Old School Room
27th April – Leeds, Oporto
2nd May – Nottingham, The Chameleon
Read Jazz Revelations interview with Shaku from May 2019 here.
Shaku: Noiak Bedirian (guitar and vocals), Rob McNicholas (guitar), Jack Hespe (drums), Jasper Green (keys), Kieran Halpin (bass guitar), and Ben Caton (saxophone and flute)