Livestream Los Angeles, CA
Players: Keith Shacklett, bass, vocals, keyboards; Max Kelly, drums, keyboards
Material: The term “bantamweight” is used in combat sports; it’s a weight classification for a fighter, somewhere between flyweight and featherweight. Hence, it’s an appropriate title for this intrepid duo and their music. The material is unpredictable, fancifully pugilistic, effervescent and lighter than air. All of the songs referenced in this review are taken from their current original and independently produced EP Sound & Haptics. Eight tracks in total—each has a conceptual ebb and flow that goes from whisper quiet to thunderously intense.
Musicianship: Shacklett and Kelly’s primary instruments are bass and drums, respectively. But, then, they are both phenomenally versed in sequencing and electronic keyboards as well. It is as if they each are simultaneously performing magic tricks and literal sleight-of-hand before your eyes. Shacklett balances intricate bass duties, triggers keyboard passages and maintains a consistent vocal delivery from song to song. Kelly responds in kind, and ups the ante playing delicate “real time” keyboard runs in the left hand while performing technical drum accents, with his right. When they put all the pieces together they engage as one lean, mean prog-rock machine!
Performance: Their YouTube performance begins rather casually as they enter their intimate rehearsal space. But once the lights dim, all bets are off. There is colorful atmosphere created by flashing LED lights and overhead camera angles. It is as if the band takes you to an alternate universe, with stark visuals and multiple sequenced layers of sound. Many of the songs, like “Contact” and “Hellion,” are filled with vivid lyrical imagery, cascading piano figures and deep rhythmic grooves. Of the many highlights, “Fall Away” stands out with its significant death defying feats of musical agility.
Summary: Like two MMA opponents in the Octagon, Shacklett and Kelly meet in a room and face off. But it’s a sonically refined and spiritually redemptive kind of experience where no one gets hurt and the listener/viewer is richer for having shared it with them. Exuding shades of Tangerine Dream, Rush, Muse and EDM, Bantamweight plays music that is world-class and otherworldly at the same time. They are in their own category and are taking progressive music and electronica to the next rung.
Here is the link to the new Bantamweight video called "Hellion": youtu.be/d2cvdRnGq1g