Shiver Shadow

Live review from Rock Show For All:

1.You such a flirt
2.Shy Cat
3.Tell me where you wanna be
5. I see
6. 鮟鱇魚

A few weeks ago, I dropped by Shazza Music Showcase #129 at the Wanch for a quick pint and a bit of music when Chris B stopped me and said I simply HAD to stay for Clover’s solo. I had no idea who Clover was but ‘rock ballad queen’ sounded pretty exciting. Clover walked on stage without much fanfare dressed simply in a t-shirt and skirt. Although she had done nothing at this point, anticipation hung in the air and at the drop of her pick onto the strings of her guitar, it was clear what the tension was for. Clover sang of relationships, love and family with such a refined raw vigour it was impossible not to become obsessed with her musical stories.

Normally, Clover is part of the post-punk rock-ballad band Shiver Shadow (or ‘三文珊豆’, Sandwich Beans’ in Chinese). It was surprisingly hard to find any information about them online even in Chinese, let alone English, because as it turns out they were only formed this year which is almost unbelievable considering their comradery and sophistication. That’s not to say anything about their experience – guitarist and backing vox Anan has played in the “random rock” band 心杂音 (Murmurs of the heart) since at least 2022.

心杂音 shares a lot of similarities with her sister band, Shiver Shadow, they’re both very soundscape driven. That is, the focus of their songs isn’t necessarily to excite or drive, it’s to create an atmosphere, although in this regard Shiver Shadow is far more lyrical (Morgan, lead singer for 心杂音 said in an interview that he doesn’t fully write his songs, and they deliberately practise less to truly experience the music – Shiver Shadow, clearly, is rehearsed). The themes are similar as well with a combination of glitzy girl gossip, social commentary, trauma, and sometimes just ironic sounding music – like Shy Cat, whose lyrics are largely just “shy cat”.

But the biggest similarity between the two is that they’re both hard to fully pin down musically, yet the effect is tight. The four members of Shiver Shadow were a clear unit, with stoic demeanours, emo-rebel-can’t-give-a-shit attitudes and matching black outfits. Well, except the drummer 鲍鱼胜 who showed up in blue, which, as with many bands, provided a much needed happy juxtaposition to the rest – kind of like Jerry and the three girls in Totally Spies…if Jerry were an infectiously good drummer.

The band, as Clover introduced, are from Guangzhou. The difference between the Mainland’s musical scene and the local scene is pretty pronounced. While most of the bands (at least English speaking ones) are pop-rock driven and largely structural with songs, Shiver Shadow’s pieces were free-flowing outpours of musical expression. One piece tonight 墨鏡男孩 had a mix of harmonies commonly head in mainland pop but with disco rhythms and hints of modern American pop. The result is an interesting combination with tons of layers – how does only four people make so many layers? I don’t know. Even their more structured songs like “You such a flirt” and “Shy Cat” still have half-sung half-yelled sometimes-wailing grunge melodies more fluid than settled. Their other pieces such as “I See” are bone fide love songs with crooning and angelic harmonies, perfectly and executed on stage. 鮟鱇魚 (anglerfish) in particular had some truly impressive musically sensitive counterpoints between the vocals. Their final number 自由落體 (free falling body) was the polar opposite with loud screeching guitars; Clover out of control and a (metaphorical) mosh-pit forming in front of the stage. And in complete character, their encore number was a great multi sectional endless flow of guitar sirens and lots of aiyah! Being yelled into the microphone.

Now, it wouldn’t be a review if I didn’t review the performance critically and make some suggestions for how they could improve. I’m not going to nit-pick every single mistake, because as a whole the effect was great and that warrants far more praise. However, there were times in which the performance felt like ‘Clover and friends’; I was left almost consistently hungry for more backing vocals, maybe even a solo from one of the other band members would’ve given some interesting variety. But this is a small issue. After all, Shiver Shadow is more than the sum of its parts. The influence of Anan’s ‘random’ atmospheric soundscape and Clover’s own Mitski-esque ballads are clear and effective. One of the most promising new bands to grace the Underground stage this year!
– Cyril Ma

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Performances by Shiver Shadow: