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Electric sky

The Impossible Shapes find magic in the Midwest


The Impossible Shapes dont take rocking lying down. Or - do they?
  • The Impossible Shapes dont take rocking lying down. Or do they?

Clearly, our Midwestern rock brethren are subject to much categorical barbed wire. If a band from a fly-over state doesn't don trucker hats and wave blue-collar credos, music critics start to poke at them like voodoo dolls.

Strange then, that The Impossible Shapes' rustic, psychedelic musings on the universe seem not only authentic, but natural. The Bloomington, Ind., band already five albums into a career that began as a high-school hobby in 1998 brandish dreamy folk-pop songs that drop Egyptian mythological figures like raps do neighborhoods.

And, recalling that the sky is the Midwest's most intoxicating feature, these 20-something Indianans seem more equipped than any smog-choked Californian to summon Ra, the sun god.

Shapes songwriter Chris Barth, who studies "all sorts of systems of magic and traditions," explains his lyrical palate from a bus en route to Austin.

"The songs are just kind of little spells," he says of their upcoming re-release, Tum, "and little indications [of] different forces in the universe that I'd named, or kind of tongue-in-cheek named, after Egyptian deities and things like that."

Not that the Shapes experience is overbearingly occult, or cemented in some Lord of the Rings-inspired geek-out. The prolific newcomers are skilled at juggling the trite as well as the true.

Their sound, overseen primarily by Barth and Aaron Deer (organ, banjo, bass), is immensely reflective of Syd Barrett, Love, and Elephant 6 bands like Olivia Tremor Control, yet follows a more interesting, more singular path with every album.

"I believe that we're maybe coming from the same place as a lot of those bands," says Barth. "But maybe we're going somewhere different in the end."

Case in point is the re-release of Tum, which hits stores next week. (It originally was debuted sparingly last year on vinyl and on their Web site,

Recorded in just two weeks in drummer Mark Rice's garage, it sounds as if it was made in a cabin with a sawed-off roof. Barth's nasal howls glide over the eclectic affair, which boasts plenty of banjo and floorboard stomps butting up against fuzzed-out rockers and jingle-jangle pop. And, of course, some baying at the sky.

Barth says Tum is a much more hopeful affair than last year's acclaimed studio effort Horus, mostly because the band assumed complete responsibility for Tum, including the artwork.

"[Horus] expresses something," he says. "It's something that I feel less personally connected to. I think it's kind of just an evil album all around. It's almost like the album is cursed in my mind."

However, noting the band's rising visibility raves from Spin and, etc. the Shapes' progress doesn't appear to be cursed at all. In Bloomington's healthy indie scene, where Shapes members play in multiple Bloomington acts, including Magnolia Electric Co. and Horns of Happiness, the band is gaining ground. Barths has learned to be unmoved by the push, though.

"Whatever momentum is, it's always swinging," he says. "And it can always completely swing in the other direction at any point. You just keep doing it and [don't] worry so much about where it's going to go.

""Do without lust of result,'" he says. "That's a phrase that I've liked."


The Impossible Shapes

Larimer Lounge,

2721 Larimer St., Denver

Thursday, March 2, 11:30 p.m.

Tickets: $6; visit or

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