“Shaky Ground” is an album that impresses for its maturity and smart aesthetic choices, and it positions Maki and Papp as one of just a handful of collaborative acts with the vision and the technical chops to push the tired Alternative Indie Rock scene in both a more visceral and more progressive direction. They still adhere to the conventions of roots music structures, with relatively gritty melodies and songs that are demarcated into clear verses, choruses, and bridges. But they eschew superficial narratives and cheap language, going for the gut and grind of everyday living: “We’re talking about factory work, hackers, seekers, lions and lost love. The personal emotions that come from living it, every day. Feels like walking on shaky ground,” explains the liner notes.
Though Maki and Papp challenge modern music convention with their choices of roots instruments and organic arrangements, they have made careful, spot-on assessments of what actually works within the framework of each song.
There is no surplus fat allowed, every sound heard on these tracks is essential to the song’s prospected aesthetic. This kind of music requires precise songwriting and production instincts to filter out indulgent asides and to remain focused on a singular vision.
The album “Shaky Ground” suggests that Maki and Papp have already developed those instincts; hence their brand of Alternative Indie Rock never derails into indulgence. The title track kicks off the proceedings, with insistently strummed guitars, warm keys, and tasty Dobro interludes by acclaimed player Tab Tabscott.
“It’s the Law” unpacks a chugging, gritty rock n’ roll sound with bluesy overtones. It features Nick Budoff on the harmonica, and the two male harmonizing voices, which propel the entire song.
No matter how you frame it, “Karma Bring You Down” is a stunning, expansive, and utterly satisfying track. It’s rhythmically fascinating, and never misses a step on its wandering, restless path. The guitar and keyboard foundation, give it a distinct rock propulsion. On top, the abrasive vocals resonate and dominate.
Reverberating acoustic guitars and subtle ambient embellishments, support the roaring vocal on “Lions Of Darkness”. Maki and Papp are experimenters on one hand, and an alternative indie project with an arsenal of sweet tunes on the other.
This album is no mere intellectual exercise, because as compelling as these ideas are, they are underscored all the way through by the deep feeling and sense of discovery in the songs. Radiant, energetic sounds abound throughout the album. The submerged guitars that open “Just A Little Bit More” yield to immense grooves and slithering vocals that swing into midnight.
“Ancient Story” blends the organic and the electronic, with fiery overdriven guitar lines and an echoing voice. “Ballad For Number Three” is where a gorgeous, earthy vocal melody, blossoms into a swirling guitar and piano driven soundscape.
Few bands come off as sonically authentic as Maki and Papp, while even fewer sound quite as rad. Roots Americana resonates all over “On The Long Track”, while the upbeat dance instrumental, “Zug Island” boasts some dazzling and spiraling guitar runs.
All throughout this album, Maki and Papp feel truly bonded instead of just intertwined across the span of these tracks. The two musicians collaborated several years with the goal of creating songs that reverberated the sounds they grew up with. It’s obvious this is exactly where they were always hoping to arrive, taking all the necessary steps along the way to actually get here.
Maki and Papp explore tight song structures but inject them with a kind of studied jam feel. Repeated listens also reveal peculiar idiosyncrasies that make this recording so compelling as they masterfully retrieve tradition for the 21st century. The music on “Shaky Ground” is so good, so cohesive and confidently made, that the record’s relevance will live on well beyond our years.
ABOUT THE ARTISTS:
Maki started his music career playing in back rooms, bars and bowling alleys in and about Detroit. Some of those stages were big and others were on the floor pushed up against a comer. All genres of music was played in solo, three-piece and show band arrangements. Maki is also an accomplished music producer and film maker. He brings vocals, guitar, bass and synth to the album.
Papp is traditionally trained on piano. He played in several Detroit groups covering rock, pop and jazz venues. He bought one of the first Kurzweil synths made and there was no looking back. Papp brings vocals, keyboards, bass and drums the album.
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