• Jacob Kemp

Sun / Moon - Philip Shibata

What do you get when you mix a guy born in Japan, who grew up in Canada, Israel, and Germany, and now lives in the UK as the lead guitarist of Rivers and Robots? Well, Philip Shibita of course. As 2021 is ushered in by continued uncertainty, Shibata brings us a multifaceted, genre-fusing, multicultural record in the form of ‘Sun / Moon’ that will spirit you away to a place where things make more sense.

In 1970, the world's biggest ever pop group ‘The Beatles’ said their final goodbyes. But in the midst of all of the pain and sorrow, ‘George Harrsion’ was there to ease it all with the release of ‘All Things Must Pass’, which is a work of art that showed the world that maybe it wasn’t all bad news. There are definitely some parallels to be seen here as ‘Sun/Moon’ comes out fresh off the heels of the heartbreaking and unexpected news that after 10 incredible years River and Robots will be taking a long hiatus. As fans and friends come to grips with the news, Shibita takes a leaf out of his fellow lead guitarist's book and releases a record that is more than equipped to keep that sadness at bay.

It’s almost as if each song lives in its whole little world of musical genius.

The first thing upon listening through that really jumps out at you on this record is the immensely talented musicianship of Shibata and Co. It’s almost as if each song lives in its whole little world of musical genius - as incredible, musical moments, ideas, lyrics and melodies jump out at you, time and time again. Sometimes catching you off guard, sometimes not, but always making you want to come back for more.

In our Interview with Philip on the podcast, Shibata replied with this when talking about what genres have most influenced him and this record: ‘When we grew up, as a kid, my dad used to play loads of Jazz Music at home, in the car too. It was all about Jazz...they just kept on grooving. Then I got into R&B, Hip Hop and also my first instrument is actually drums. Groove was something that was super important; anything has to have some sort of groove. For me, that's what I loved listening to and what I enjoyed. So when it came to the point when I was able to write my own stuff, or produce my own music, I thought, well, let me try making what I love.’

There’s plenty of groove, as you hear Jazz, Soul, R&B, Hiphop, NeoSoul (to name a few) are all genres that you find on this record. They are littered throughout, as Shibata dips in and out of them. You can hear moments of Jazz (which will surely make his dad proud) on tracks like ‘Blindspot’ as Philip almost shows off on the guitar channeling an inner ‘George Benson’ into his guitar solo. The guitar is front and center again on the bilingual ‘Drifting’ (featuring Lauren Horii) where his guitar takes center stage on an 8 bar solo. Tracks like, ‘Eyes on You’ (featuring Montell fish) are reminiscent of the self-titled Lianne la Havas 2020 album as he saunters into Neo-Soul territory. And the tempo is sped up on one of the most upbeat track ‘Boy’ as Shibata plays catchy Indie style guitar hooks while an 80’s synth sounds in the background.

Philips multicultural journey, (taking him to more places than many will end up visiting in their lifetime) is not forgotten in the track listing as Lauren Horii jumps on the previously mentioned ‘Drifting’. Adding both lyrics and melodies in Japanese that give the song an entirely new meaning that wouldn’t have been there otherwise. As well as the instrumental ‘Saikai’ (Japanese word for ‘Reunion’) as the track opens up with a sample of Philips Dad preaching about ‘reuniting with our loved ones, one day in heaven’ spoken in Japanese again adding a whole other dimension to this accomplished record.

Throughout the 33 minute runtime you can also hear the genius of Producer & Mixer Jonathan Ogden (fellow bandmate and artist in his own right) as he helps to bring each song to life. Be it the static you can hear on the keys of the instrumental ‘Saikai’, or the lo-fi kit on ‘Carry On’. The track ‘Sweet & Bitter’ also has moments of tightness and musical genius and genuinely feels like an instrumentalists playground as they all try to one up each other - be that a keys solo, drum fill, stabs, or guitars that’ll have any guitarist swooning. It will leave you vibing and singing truth over yourself ‘I know I’m meant for more’. But is not the only moment where you end up singing truth, as ‘Getting Better’ will leave you humming: ‘getting better, getting stronger, getting bolder’ long after the track has finished playing. There are so many brilliant moments on this record that would take me all day to write and you even longer to read.

Sun / Moon, is so thoroughly enjoyable. As well as the fusion of genres and grooves, its also a guitarist paradise as melodies, solos and licks are littered throughout. And it being only the debut of Philip Shibata, you can only expect his talent to continue as the years grow and his ability does too.

The February episode of the Cathedral Music Podcast is available now. Listen to the episode to check out the rest of our interview with Philip Shibata by clicking here; the interview starts at 1:14:11.

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