Boomkat Product Review:
As Flesh & The Dream, Heather Leigh & Shackleton chart an ambitious journey of discovery in the psychic dancehall, conjuring a debut album that’s a psychedelic prog masterpiece, probing the gooey membrane between outré folk vocalisations and dizzying, queered soundscapes. There's nowt out there quite like it, channeling the spirits of Annette Peacock, Anna Homler, Coil, Kate Bush, Rrose, Harry Partch and Yes into a brilliantly unfathomable, singular vision.
‘Choose Mortality’ cultivates a delirious blossoming of ideas seeded when the pair first collaborated in 2019 for the Tunes of Negation 'Reach the Endless Sea' album. Bonding over a common musical language, but also a shared fascination with philosophy, religion and literature, they started pooling musical sketches to funnel their mutual passions into mottled alloys of outsider folk, fourth world musick and unstable, experimental electronics.
Distilled in spiralling dervishes and freely modal songcraft, their mutable artforms elide in fantastically slippery, lyersgic hallucinations of prog-pop guided by a rhythmic psychedelia. Heather Leigh shapeshifts in typically elusive form, wraithlike and seductive, as Shackleton’s signature, roiling percussive battery meets his muse with shearing synth textures and a rhinestone shimmer.
They strikingly recall moments of Sleazy’s Threshold Houseboys Choir in the puckered tone of ‘Diviner Of The Flesh’, and ascend magisterial levels of heart-in-mouth psychedelics with biblical centrepiece ‘Book of Daniel Part 3 (The Image of God and the Blazing)’. If the prog excesses of Yes, Genesis and King Crimson were an attempt to mechanise or electrify existing cultural forms with high-minded eccentricity, Shackleton and Heather Leigh continue that thought without poaching the aesthetic. Somehow, it's both progressive and psychedelic without succumbing to any of the creative pitfalls those forms might imply.
Most impressively, the duo present music that sits outside any particular continuum. There are traces of the kind of outsider art Heather Leigh's been peddling for years as an artist and as a curator/tastemaker, and there are elements of Shackleton's bass weight incursions, but Flesh & The Dream is an entirely unique proposition. Just clap yr ears on 'Before the Flood' - almost eight minutes of ratcheting FM clangs, hissing hi-hats and ghosted vocalisations that sound as close as we're likely to get to a collaboration between Coil and Kate Bush - and you’ll get a sense of the brilliant, unearthly delights in store.