Rivers of influences meet in Shookrah’s sound. Jazz, soul, pop and disco are the waters that power their turbines, the forces that shape their chords and sculpt their rhythms. Their debut album, ‘Shookrah’, harnesses these old genres and converts them into countless joules of music. A new, kinetic energy created from the 20th century’s potential.
They shake, stomp and roll over the ancient rhythms of those genres to splice them into new forms. On Big Bitch Energy the beat hits like a fighter’s punches – hard and considered. Emmet O’Riabhaigh’s drums are the muscle behind the blows. He hits the snare like he’s got a grudge against it and his bass drum sounds like a fist on flesh. A lot of electronic music takes that beat and abuses it, turns it into a mindless thug. Shookrah, however, weave synths and guitars around the violence so they sound like Ali’s feet brushing the ring’s mat.
Pop music often suffers from thoughtlessness. But Shookrah have painted a masterpiece within the genre’s frame. Senita Appiakorang’s vocals jab at the rhythms, playing off the momentum of the beats and using their own weight against them. Between her and the drums, the bass and guitar weave about each other. They pass so close to each other at times that the air is charged with tension. As if two bullets missed each other by a hair’s breadth. Daniel Coughlan darts from Nile Rodgers’ disco chords to Tom Morello’s technological attack and on to Hendrix’s lightness.
Crumbling’s opening riff approaches Fela Kuti’s Afrobeat from jazz’s obtuse angle. The smoothness of Kuti’s players is there. But there is one note, a lone echoing tone, that sets the riff on a knife’s edge. So that it walks that treacherous path over clumsiness’s pit.
It is the synths and the bass that place ‘Shookrah’ in the 21st century. Brian Dunlea pulls his lines from the depths of his instrument. On Level Up he stays on the lower strings. His simple riffs flow like poetry, punctuating the beat with short notes like exclamation points.
Diarmait Mac Chartaigh dances on his keys. There is nothing organic about his synth’s sound, but the way he moves through the songs could be a jive or a street-dance. As if he is wearing his technology like an exoskeleton, a modern suit of armor engineered to maximize human potential.
‘Shookrah’, weaves the intricacies of present-day technology with the soul’s countless threads.
The radio is packed with unbalanced music, where the tech and greed has swallowed the humanity. Shookrah have struck a fine balance. Within the 3-minute limitations of a pop song they have found a hidden corner. A little cosmos of sound that no one else has ever explored.
It’s a thrill to hear what man and machine can accomplish when nothing of either has been sacrificed. But has, instead, come together to create something new. Something that did not exist before, and could only belong to this moment.