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Shakespace isn't the kind of band you might expect to come from a nice warm Southern town like Roanoke, Virginia; they have a dark moody sound that suggests colder, grayer, tenser geographic origins -- New York, perhaps, or London. Evolving from a series of mid-'90s multimedia art exhibitions put on by bassist Michelle Ferguson's No Phase art collective, the quartet developed a gloomy nervous avant-rock approach with strong undertones of the post-punk proto-goth of bands like Bauhaus, the Sisters of Mercy, and the early Cure, as well as pessimistic indie bands like the early Afghan Whigs. Thick layered guitars and complex, melancholy synths drive Shakespace's somber, tenebrous sound, along with joint vocals from Josh Strawn (who also plays guitar and synths) and Ferguson, his defiantly delivered at the desolate void, hers dreamy, swooping, and ethereal, at times almost suggesting an intelligible Elizabeth Fraser (Cocteau Twins). Unlike so many bands with baroque or gothic pretensions or gloomy sensibilities, Shakespace pens really good songs, with intelligent, rich arrangements and strong, soaring melodies. Recommended for everyone, not just those who prefer the dark.

The band debuted in 1998 with an ambitious 16-song debut, which got the attention of Indianapolis-based indie label Happy Couples Never Last, which released Shakespace's next LP, Air Sign Orange, in 2000. From that album, "Already No" sounds like a lost classic from England's gothic new wave, circa 1982, featuring male vocals slightly reminiscent of Peter Murphy and great, spooky Cureish guitar.

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