Album Review: Unlock the Rhythm by Shades of Gray
Producing together under the Shades of Gray moniker since 2005, Czech native Michal Ruzicka and Aussie Nick West have been carefully crafting their own distinctive brand of sophisticated tech-funk and sensual deep house. Their music has graced renowned labels like Lost My Dog and Om Records, as well as their own imprint, Beef Records. Three years after their critically acclaimed debut album, Soul Machine, Shades of Gray return with their sophomore LP, Unlock the Rhythm.
“When you only have two weeks in the studio between gigs, you really need to trust your instincts and let the ideas flow” says Nick West in a press release. Written mostly in two intense sessions whilst on tour in the European summer of 2012 and Australia in early 2013, Unlock the Rhythm embodies the dynamism of life on the road. Combining endless imagination with dancefloor vision, the duo creates ready-made party vibes with warm analog bass lines, memorable samples, crisp percussion, and alluring synths.
From the Moroder-esque synths on “Be Alone,” to the soul-laden vibes on “What’s Your Vice,” West and Ruzicka naturally combine shades of euro disco, ambient, downtempo, soul, funk, and house injected deep within their music’s DNA. The result is an album chock-full of smart dance music that stimulates the listener’s physical being and cerebral state-of-mind.
Using boundless imagination and time constraints as motivation, the duo remained inspired by the life they made for themselves on the road and in the clubs. “The connection between the club and the record is palpable,” says Michal Ruzicka in a press release. “We would be in the studio in the morning working on material and then testing the tracks that night in a club.” This relationship is fully demonstrated in the raw originality that seeps into every crevice on the album. For example, “Night at the Spice Cellar” was created when the duo were at a friend’s club listening to a funk band. They sampled the keyboard riffs there on a cell phone and later transformed the sample into this infectious WODD (weapon of dancefloor destruction).
Adding to their collection of aural artillery, “Slave to the Rhythm” is the ultimate peak hour track. The vocals chant “You’re a slave to rhythm,” slowly hypnotizing the sea of partygoers into a dance-fueled frenzy. If music were foreplay, “Disappear with You” would seal the deal. From the sultry vocals of Bonsai to the gorgeously crafted piano riffs, this song disrupts thought processes and engages our primitive nature. “Tonight is the Night,” is another peak time slam-dunk, as its bold and gritty bass lines take command of the party.
Full of creative and complexly layered songs from beginning to end, Unlock the Rhythm is a quintessential dance album for 2014, demonstrating to the highest degree what it means to be inspired by your surroundings and trust your instincts. As a result, listeners will be left breathless from jiving so hard to these provocative beats.
1. Never Alone
2. Back to You
3. Lift You Up
4. Let It Flow
5. A Night At The Spice Cellar
6. Slave To The Rhythm
9. Disappear With You
10. Unlock The Door
11. Tonight is the Night
12. What’s Your Vice
13. BONUS. TONIGHT IS THE NIGHT (SMASH TV REMIX)
Check out the Unlock the Rhythm Remixes Pt.1