As I began to play Little Shells’ album, “5 Deep Under,” there were a multitude of unique elements I noticed right away. The album opens with “Another Night” which takes no time to erupt in your ears after the light bell note gorgeously reverberates for the fourth time. I was taken by surprise as the somewhat hardcore orchestral sound unraveled. The powerful sound didn’t remain for long, but it was prominent and complex while it was present. Soon after, the background goes quiet, and Conchita Campos’ voice emerges through, accompanied solely by the piano. This all happens within the first 35 seconds of the album. If that’s not telling about what’s to come, I don’t know what is. Her voice has a satisfying vibrato, and doesn’t seem too affected by the recording and production process. It’s hauntingly beautiful and raw. She is anything but monotone as her melody examines a plethora of notes and textures. The orchestral aspect of the track later merges with her voice, and that’s when the song really takes off. The richer moments are sporadic among the sweeter moments. The song’s design doesn’t allow you to completely settle into how you might predict it to go. Isn’t that what’s most fascinating about music anyway; the means in which artists can test limits and keep things unpredictable while still remaining relevant.
Throughout the album, Campos uses her jazzy, edgy voice to push simpler melodies beyond how they would be sung, otherwise. The instrumentation and the compositional choices produce a lovely, old school, and rather soulful jazz vibe. The prominence of the piano in “Halk (god of the sea)” allows the horns to take the melody to an airy place. The bass is nothing short of satisfying, as it ties the whole groove together. I found myself loving these slow grooves, and enjoying some of these similar elements in many of the other tracks. Another song that’s reminiscent of an old jazz record is “Goodnight,” which presents a slow, enchanting groove. As the album closer, it’s relaxingly radiant, as Campos’ voice adds a level of depth to the melody. The guitar solo is perfectly not over the top. The song is well crafted, and the moments where the instruments pull back make way for her voice to shine, which feels like a cleanse to the system and a breath of fresh air.
“Feet On The Ground” shows off the eclectic rhythms, which are distinct due to the percussive instrumentation. The beat isn’t being held down by a typical drum kit the whole time; it’s more subtle than that, yet exceptionally impactful. Campos explores song formats and instrumentation mixes that are rather unique, making everything you hear utterly fascinating. While “Feet On The Ground” is an album highlight for me from a technical and songwriting standpoint, “I’ll Remain” takes the cake as my favorite track on the album. The piano introduction is enticing and draws you in to a dramatic atmosphere, where Campos’ voice takes you to another world. The first half of the song is focused on voice and piano, but as the song begins to build after the first chorus, it’s the drums that bring the dramatics to a new level. The second chorus exhibits the artistic talents of the string section, accompanying the repeated title line “I’ll Remain.” Campos’ compositions arrangement feels very purposeful and potent. As she shows off a slow jazzy scat, we can see the extent of her skill and natural musical sense. The lyrics are stunningly powerful and poetic. The pre-chorus reads: “And all you thought was true came before you ever knew. Ever fragile, ever blue; seeping slowly into you, but I’ll Remain.” It’s nice to hear lyrics that are not only relatable, but also depict something genuine and real. It’s a song with a clear theme, but leaves the listener space to comprehend it in a personal way.
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Little Shell’s “5 Deep Under” provides us with a classy, jazzed up, indie sound, incorporating complex and simple musical elements. With a history in electronic music composition, Campos is able to compose with an eclectic sense of musicality, as she fuses several styles together, creating intriguing sounds and melodies. She succeeds in using her voice, along with an array of other instruments, to transport listeners to a different time or place. This album is quite a relaxing trip into her world, allowing you to experience a range of emotions in a low key setting.
Article: Alex Feigin