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A Folding Sieve (1995), 7/10 (EP)
Should: Feed Like Fishes , 6/10
Motion Picture: Every Last Romance , 7/10
Motion Picture: For a Distant Movie Star , 6/10
Motion Picture: A Paper Gift , 7/10
Should: Like A Fire Without Sound (2011), 5/10

Marc Ostermeier, a songwriter and keyboardist from Austin (Texas), started out in 1988 playing moody synth-pop. The first self-released self-titled cassette was recorded with the help of Eric Ostermeier (also on keyboards). Several cassettes followed: Shift (AMM, 1989), Intact (AMM, 1990), Gripping a Cup (AMM,1992), Big Closed Sky (AMM, 1992). With the addition of vocalist Tanya Maus, the six-song cassette, Resonate (Whirlpool, 1993), marked a departure that led to the mature sound of the seven-song EP A Folding Sieve (ND, 1995 - Captured Tracks, 2011), recorded as a trio. In songs such as Resonate, the suave voice of Tanya Maus and the guitar and synth washes build a trance which is reminiscent of My Bloody Valentine and Opal. Even better, Rolling, Breathe Salt and Clean bridge the sumptous dream-pop of the Cocteau Twins with the magnificent madrigal of the Hugo Largo. Shift may well be the first band ever to re-enact the latter band's magic.

Another little wonder, the single Own Two Feet/ Soothed (ND, 1997), kept hopes alive that the band would survive. A Folding Sieve (Words On Music, 2002) compiles the first EP, the single and some unreleased tracks.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Micol Sorrentino)

I Shift sono un trio proveniente da Austin (Texas) che ha prodotto un solo, ma eccezionale, EP, A Folding Sieve (ND, 1995). In canzoni come Resonate, la soave voce di Tanya Maus, la chitarra e le ondate di suono creano una sorta di stato ipnotico che ricorda My Bloody Valentine e Opal. Meglio ancora, Rolling, Breathe Salt e Clean collegano il sontuoso dream-pop dei Cocteau Twins con il magnifico madrigale dei Hugo Largo. I Shift potrebbero essere il primo gruppo ad avere riprodotto la magia di questi ultimi.

Un'altra piccola meraviglia, il singolo Own Two Feet (ND, 1997), ha tenuto in vita la speranza che il gruppo potesse sopravvivere.

Eric Ostermeier's main project is actually Motion Picture, which he shares with John Rigg (guitar). Ostermeier and Rigg formed Motion Picture at Monmouth College (Illinois) in 1992, then moved it to Minneapolis. In his own words, "Motion Picture writes music that invites linkages between film, sound, and narrative. The songs emphasize conversational lyrics that evoke picturesque images and themes from the distant romantic era of black and white celluloid".

Every Last Romance (Words on Music, 1998) was Motion Picture's debut album. Despite the declaration of intent, the closest reference to Motion Picture's sound would be Luna, albeit augmented with a classical sensibility. And second would be San Francisco's acid-rock of the 1960s. The delicate, jingling cartilage of Every Last Romance merges renaissance, mediterranean and folk-rock styles. The brisk, dancing While I Walk You Home is as close to a Mozart-ian rondo` as folk music can get. A Round Sour Morning opens with a dreamy, almost psychedelic, almost raga, chirping of guitars.
If melody, counterpoint and tempo inject the songs with humble splendor, arrangements up the ante by introducing a more philosophical element, a deeper sense of life. The result is a sort of zen grandeur, which is still simple and pure while pointing to a grander design. Sarah West's cello leads the lounge-music of Who You Are Is Not Who You Were, bestowing on it the formal beauty of chamber music. A Brief Look at the Unfaithful is a tender lullaby accented by mournful cello and ringing guitar. I Can't Write Love Letters is a Bach-ain aria masquerading as a Bacharach melody.
The closing elegy, She Talked, Laughed, and Walked Away, best summarizes the lazy, meditative, elegant, and plaintive core of Motion Picture's compositions.
The leader's discreet whisper is a fitting voice for this art of understated emotions and lulling melodies. While it seems plain and bland, it can "carry" tunes like Forgetting My Schoolboy Charm, that mix eastern scales and hypnotic strumming. Elvis Costello would die to achieve this kind of magic balance and effortless delivery.

For a Distant Movie Star (Words on Music, 1999) was the mature expression of that idea, a fragile folk-rock embedded in quasi renaissance grace and quasi classical (guitar/cello) arrangements, embellished with erudite lyrics.
Boasting a fuller sound, the lively lullaby Once He Fell, interrupted by a splendid duet of guitar and cello, the solemn hymn The Sound the Rain Made, wrapped in a baroque line of cello, and the majestic movement If Only We Met by Train, the standout in terms of quiet elegance, paint another warm (motion) picture of the leader's mythical universe.
The guitar's flourishes, borrowed from Eastern music rather than country or folk music, often steal the show, as in April Rides Her Bicycle, rivaling Leo Kottke and John Fahey at their most transcendental. The Girl and the Boy is pop-jazz that has the hypnotic quality of a Tibetan mantra.
Melody reigns supreme, tucked in the waltzing ballad I Know It Will Rain on My Wedding Day and dilated in the romantic elegy In the Half-Melted Snow. and modulated in the breezy ode My First Autumn Verse.
Abandoning some of the intellectual stance, Motion Picture's second album was an attempt to make music that was less personal and "easier" to listen to.

A Paper Gift (Words On Music, 2001) even boasts a chamber quartet: Sarah West (cello), Ingrid Liepins (violin), Josi Wergen (french horn) and Merilee Klemp (english horn). A Paper Gift and Winter 1988 are formally classical sonatas, embellished with shimmering guitar tones and narrated by a dreamy whisper. The pathetic, mediterranean melody of Alida is a touching tribute to an actress. Promising Young Actress and The First Name on Your Dance Card are upbeat and breezy, and could be Luna songs. Twisting the Apple Stem and Me in Your Past Tense are pastoral folk lullabies the way Donovan used to make them in the 1960s. The heavenly string and horn arrangements add atmosphere to songs that are already magically catchy. In a sense, the dedication to cinema detracts from a project that could be far more universal. The music itself is delicate, introverted poetry that transcends the lyrics.

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In the meantime, in August 1997, Shift changed their name to Should and recorded the album Feed Like Fishes (Words On Music, 1998), which was followed by the EP Five Forty Five (Words on Music, 2000). Again, the line-up was Marc Ostermeier and Eric Ostermeier on keyboards and guitars, Tanya Maus on vocals.
The album opens with the brief instrumental Fish Fourteen, an exotic Brian Eno-ian vignette drenched in twangy guitar and electrical statics. Tender whispers and creaking distortion lull the soaring, shoegazing Sarah Missing into Velvet Underground-grade trance. These two tracks pretty much set the pace for the rest of the album. Should's psychedelic madrigals run the gamut of emotions from ecstatic (the exotic lullaby of Spangle) to gothic (Nico's eerie liturgy is echoed in It Still Would and Its Pull Is Slight), but ultimately stick to that paradigm of burning guitars and quiet vocals.
The band's rare experiments with simple accompaniments are no less successful (the touching melody of Lullen over a music-box motif of the piano, the ambient instrumental Inst2, the closing trip-hoppish Both Eyes Open) and may hold the secret to broaden the somewhat narrow horizons of the debut.
The trio's stubborn quest for beauty relies on very few elements and stands in stark contrast with the bombast of contemporary rock.

Should's Like A Fire Without Sound (Words on Music, 2011), recorded over a period of five years, is the quintessential ethereal atmospheric trip; gentle meditations like Glasshouse (something between a baroque requiem and a surf lullaby), dreamy melodies like Slumberland, etc. By comparison the jangling whispery Turned tables and the feathery singalong The Great Pretend sound like rock and roll. The instrumental Always returning beats all the songs in terms of philosophical poignancy.

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