Hisham Bharoocha has made quite the name for himself over the past decade and a half. He’s been a member of two proficient experimental noise acts–Lightning Bolt and Black Dice–and just released his second full-length album, Shore Obsessed, under the moniker Soft Circle. Adding Ben Vida to the mix (Town and Country, Bird Show), the two placed their focus with Shore Obsessed on the staggering environmental concerns of our world as a direct result of human greed. It’s an ambitious idea to say the least, and one that for the most part works, but not as often as one maybe would hope.
Album opener “First Time” kicks in with Bharoocha’s familiar vocal loop technique spiraling in motion, escalating and descending in key, while adding new instrumentation at the beginning of each bar. This process of songwriting is what Soft Circle has probably become most well known for, and it’s a real treat seeing the tracks come to fruition – especially live. On “Treading Water”, warped guitars and gushy keys combine with Bharoocha’s lyrics “You’re barely treading water”, which eventually progresses to “You’re drowning in murky water” with great effect. The most interesting element to Shore Obsessed (and typically with Soft Circle’s music in general) is the relationship that the music sonically has with its lyrics.
Yet there are moments where Shore Obsessed becomes a bit too daring i.e. “Nerve of People”, where bouncy electronic drums matched with a muddled voice that I'm assuming plays the role of the grim reaper. Its primal rhythms are endearing, but the track is a slightly humorous misstep.
Fortunately, said missteps do not occur that often. Things quickly get back on track with “Bad Habit”, where ambient keys and gentle electronic tinkering act as the calm before the storm that comes on “Bonzer” – a song that most resembles Bharoocha’s past efforts with an act like Lightning Bolt. The pounding percussion is driving and its scratchy synth dives are like a culmination of all the surmounted frustration throughout the albums progression.
When all is said and done, Shore Obsessed succeeds in what it set out to do, but with such a timely issue that has generally lost a large amount of the media coverage that it once had, the question really becomes, who’s willing to listen beyond its most immediate sound?