SHREK IS LOVE | Vol 1: This Is My Swamp & Vol 2: Steps to the Castle

Yes, named after the 2013 meme, a neo-jazz trio plus vocalist has formed to create a concept album. You’d be forgiven for thinking this is all just an elaborate, light-hearted joke, especially with the abrupt, spoken interjection in Vol. 2’s “An Ass For A Friend”: “Oh f—; I totally forgot to write the bridge before we sent this tune to mastering.” But no, this is no silly jam sesh, this is extraordinary new writing and extraordinary jazz.

Michael Mayo’s half-husky, permanently relaxed voice hides a vocalist of unholy skill. Imagine if Pharrell Williams had extensive vocal training, and it would sound a bit like the way Mayo sings “If they can save my wife / Hey, Shrek / If you help me”. He’s singing as the character of Lord Farquaad, but the vocal quality could not be more distantly removed from the 2001 movie’s interpretation.

Celebrated L.A.-based composer Jacob Mann contributes layers of keyboards (rather than acoustic piano), sometimes courting lo-fi, 8-bit sounds (“Lord Farquaad”, “An Ass For A Friend”); sometimes keeping it simple with some swirly wurlitzer “This Is My Swamp”, “Giant Steps to the Castle”).

The whole collection is beautifully mixed and mastered (Sam Brawner, Riley Knapp), and sounds deceptively like a live recording, even though there’s tons of layered vocals and keyboards throughout, along with electric bass (Nick Campbell) and some funky, sometimes processed drums (Christian Euman). The most remarkable thing is how moving some of the tracks are, as they take on new resonances beyond the land of Far, Far Away. It’s not a joke; listen to the songs and you too will be convinced that Shrek Is Love, and, indeed, Life.

You can stream both volumes of Shrek Is Love on Bandcamp.

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