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SHORK's "The Universe" - A Bedroom-Produced Odyssey Through the Sonic Cosmos

Mark Sheridan's Solo Project, SHORK, Delivers a Polyphonic Masterpiece in "The Universe"

Cover art for SHORK's album 'The Universe'
Cover art for SHORK's album 'The Universe'

Mark Sheridan, under the moniker Shork, introduces his debut album, 'The Universe' a work that encapsulates his journey as an artist and an individual. This independently produced album, recorded in his bedroom, offers a deep dive into a world of polyphonic sounds and spacious musical explorations.

So, what's the ethos behind Shork's latest project? 'The Universe' is an exploration of space in both a literal and metaphorical sense. Inspiring the creation Shork cites a wide array of influences from Bonobo to Frank Ocean, to execute various emotions and genres. His love for polyphony is evident throughout the album, creating a rich and layered listening experience.

So, let's get into it then. The opening track, "Tether" symbolizes Shork's musical and personal journey, delving into themes from his time as a bassist in a rock band to his evolution into a solo artist. The track's two major sections reflect his life in music and his personal experiences with love. In relation to its instrumentation, the arrangement begins curious, pulsating, and uneasy. Before you know it, you find yourself in a solid hip-hop drumming along with a progressive electronic influence. House-inspired vocal chops echo in the background amongst a background of thought. The universal theme of the album becomes clear from the very first track - space, the universe, and human response.

'Denim' opens with an existential spoken word sample - it sounds processed, AI-generated possibly. Asking an array of questions, the piece first enquired "Humans were once like monkeys right?" then went into regress to find out exactly what our design is. It's highly philosophical, and will leave listeners questioning one of life's most debated questions - "Why is there something rather than nothing?". 'Denim is Leibniz, St Augustine, and Aristotle having a rave. A great house vibe with clever wordplay such as Denim - it's in the genes right?

"The Blind," featuring David Bridgeman, delves into the complexities of a relationship, highlighting the ironic loneliness arising from incompatibility despite a pursuit of love. Here we find the first full song on the album as far as lyrical content is concerned. It's hypnotic, delves into hyperpop, and brings a combination of hypnotic autotuned vocals and soulful female backing vocals. Dropping the intensity of the autotune throughout, the robotic feel switches between R&B/Hip-Hop/Soul and futuristic elements.

"Transit" heads back into bubbles of future bass. The artist himself states that it captures the essence of commuting in an abstract way, mirroring the experience of mass transit in a vast, clockwork-like space. Bubbles of urgency collide with a hip-hop drum arrangement to enhance the notion of speed. It's cleverly built, easy to listen to, and intriguing to get your head around.

'No Vacancies' is a slow burner, cinematically pleasing, and an overall joy to experience. Carried by its percussion, 'No Vacancies' mixes the realm of heartfelt basslines and chord progressions with experimental counterparts. Hints of trap soul vocal chops linger in the background adding to the emotive nature of the piece. 'No Vacancies' grows slowly into a cinematic soundscape full of futuristic synth samples and melodic offerings.

Promotional photo of Mark Sheridan
Promotional photo of Mark Sheridan

'Contra' sounds like a car advertisement - it's steady, paints the imagery associated with a journey, and then grows into much more. Hi-Hats allow for scatters of energy to grow throughout the piece whilst delayed bell synths take turns with bubbles of key synths to enhance the ride. House-inspired vocal chops add to the commercial appeal of the piece. This production had the ability to mentally take me from watching a car advert to driving straight onto the main floor at a club's house music event.

The penultimate offering 'Crush' featuring David Bridgeman is a shock addition to the project as it begins to come to a close. It's been a while since I've heard this song! Jennifer Paige's 1998 original hits different in the pop realm but this version makes you sit around and appreciate the lyrics in a new and more reflective way.

"Reverie," the closing track, is an introspective piece about social anxiety and introversion, capturing the highs and lows of navigating such emotions. The spoken word samples return, making for an educational opening. It's a clever example of how living with anxiety can feel. It's a sadder offering, the main vibe feels introspective rather than the futuristic elements found within the vast majority of the album. Having said that, 'Reverie' does speed up, offering bell synths and vocal samples once again as it progresses.

'The Universe' stands out for its focus on melodic space, allowing each track to breathe and envelop the listener in its unique atmosphere. A thorough and solid release from Shork and his collaborators. This is one for your night drive playlists - I've already added it to my night travel playlist and it's more than likely got a solid spot!

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