EP Review: The Cortex Shift – Magic Bearded Chicken Subverts the System

The Cortex Shift

South Australian five-piece The Cortex Shift is a very musically interesting band. Their newest studio release Magic Bearded Chicken Subverts the System makes me think of Miles DavisIn a Silent Way because of its “quiet intensity”. Miles Davis’ album has a sort of divine subtlety to it that belies its incredible complexity. It’s a rhythmic masterpiece of delicate complexity. Magic Bearded Chicken Subverts the System is similar in this way, but not musically. It achieves this same wonderful feeling via completely different methods, and this leads me to believe it was unintentional (although Davis could be listed as TCS’s influence).

That said, the fact that they achieved it at all is wonderful, in my eyes. Another comparison could be made to Pekka Pohjola – the Finnish  jazz fusion artist known for his tenure in Wigwam. I am reminded strongly of the title track on my favorite Pohjola album, Katkavaraan Lohikaarme (if you try to google the album keep in mind that it has a lot of umlauts that I can’t type on my American keyboard). Again, the music isn’t similar, but the basses manage to achieve the same goal for me – a sort of rhythmic bliss.

Magic Bearded Chicken Subverts the System

The quiet intensity on Magic Bearded Chicken… comes from the juxtaposition of Ciara Ferguson’s grand piano over the driving beat of the rhythm section (Edward Bittner and Max Tulysewski on bass and drums, respectively). To bring the sound on a totally different level, we have Kyle Opie and Sam Morris with their—at times—incredibly spacey guitars. The guitar duo knows how to deliver a beefy riff cannonade throughout the EP’s six tracks. The best example of this that I can think of is “The Surface.” The music is composed so subtly that it manages to build to a thundering crescendo without the listener even realizing it. Once you finally get it, waves of sound are crashing over you and suddenly fall down again to begin the next track. I also love that there are parts of the record that deviate strongly from this, such as the experimental parts of “Coupris Kineema,” and the energetic jazz rock finale, “Smoot Pt. 2.” This helps to ensure it doesn’t get monotonous.

Musically I wouldn’t call this pure jazz, but spiritually and aesthetically it couldn’t be jazzier. It has jazz’s unpretentious “coolness” seeping throughout, just welcoming you in. It’s very spacy in a way though, somewhat like the various forms of psychedelic rock.

Anyway, buy this EP. Support new bands in countries far across the globe! Eat some Aussie barbecue while listening to The Cortex Shift.

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