Given Studio's relative absence the last several years—a near-silence that's beginning to feel like an end—let's be honest: any output from either Dan Lissvik or Rasmus Hägg should be cherished right now. For those of you wondering why I mention this at the outset of a Young Galaxy review, well, it's because Young Galaxy's Shapeshifting has all the sonic hallmarks of a Dan Lissvik remix record. And for good reason. The Montreal band sent this, their finished third LP, to Lissvik to essentially dice up and recombine into a looser, beach-bum disco version of the band's artful indie.
Much like Lissvik's production on Taken By Trees' 2009 album, East of Eden, Shapeshifting bears a marked resemblance to Lissvik and Studio's own brand of sunburnt dance music. Essentially given carte blanche with the originals and spending some nine months or so with them, his fingerprints are visible from the outset. There's the spacious, often almost sleepy sense of rhythm; the downy disco guitars that coast around core melodies; the sturdy, sticky bass; the soft synthesizer fills. But unlike the sparse, almost parched backdrop beneath the Sufi-leaning East of Eden, Young Galaxy's music is far more robust, a brand of arch synth-pop that at times recalls an updating of the Eurythmics or a leaner, calmer Cut Copy.
If, without hearing the original versions of these songs, it's impossible to tell exactly where to lay the credit, the results speak of an ideal partnership. Shapeshifting's loaded with limber, immaculate leftfield dance-pop that melds the band's own elegant synthcraft with Lissvik's flare for refined Balearic-disco (fittingly, Norwegian stalwarts Smalltown Supersound will handle its European release). There's daytrip Yacht pop in the first-morning synths and triumphant guitars of "We Have Everything," the lemonade-disco of "Peripheral Visionaries" or the strummy handclap funk of "Phantoms." The closing title track, likewise, is so restrained and peaceful it almost sounds like it's dissolving from the edges inward; Catherine McCandless's voice almost buries its soft pads and curled guitar until the track slowly unwinds into a fireside hand drum jam.
But Shapeshifting is perhaps most commanding when it's most mysterious. With its slippery guitar and clinking '80s production, "Nth" resembles a darker, glammier Human League, while with a brawny synth-and-bass boom, "Blown Minded" is dark and silky and maybe a little creepy, like listening to the verbal assault of someone awkward and home-schooled.
With that said, it's inarguably "B.S.E." that's best tailored for the soft blue days ahead. Underlined by an uplifting guitar line, sturdy rhythmic guitar that sounds like the best of Lissvik's own band, a slyly anthemic synth line and McCandless's sugary swoon, "B.S.E." sounds like an awakening, an up-off-your-ass singalong that's hard to pass without going back for seconds. As so often on the record, one puts up with the bizarre poesie of the lyrics—"watch as energy rolls out of us on golden horns of light"—in order to revel in the band's cozy musical warmth.