Heinrich Dressel is the German composer alter ego of Italian musician Valerio Lombardozzi. Lombardozzi records under many aliases, but with Dressel he’s all about old school “creature feature” film scores. On his first release with the excellent Spun Out Of Control, Lombardozzi gives us Heinrich Dressel’s Shapeshifting, a nod of the (severed)head to monster movies, and in-particular those of the master John Carpenter. Synths and electronics build tension and dread over the course of ten visceral tracks. You can feel the isolation and anxiety emanating from these future classic synth cuts, making Shapeshifting the escapism you need right now.
The title Shapeshifting has a couple meanings. Of course there’s the image of human heads growing legs and walking away like grotesque spiders, chest cavities popping out shark-like teeth, or sleigh dogs peeling their skin like monstrous, bloody bananas, but for Lombardozzi it also has environmental meaning. The idea of natural phenomenons that occur, such as the slow movement of glaciers, are an environmental form of shapeshifting. Or how Lombardozzi shape shifts from one musical persona to the next. The idea of evolution and change, regardless whether natural or unnatural, is at the heart of this excellent record.
Musically Heinrich Dressel goes for the jugular on here. This isn’t a space-y synth record. This is a down and dirty, ‘stuck in the middle of an icy tomb waiting for fate to come knocking’ kind of synth record. Opener “MacReady Rescue Team” makes that clear at the beginning. With the sound of a chopper landing, synth notes establish this isn’t a typical mission. Tension builds with the subtlest of cues. There’s bits of Carpenter, John Harrison, and Brad Fiedel here, driving the idea we’re in some early 80s cinematic fever dream. Likewise, “The Thing In Disguise” opens with an almost disco click that leads into a truly minimalist synth groove. Dressel locks tightly in this world here and you genuinely feel you’ve fallen into some lost score to a lost Carpenter or Romero film. “Shapeshifting Creature” brings to mind modern synth masters like Slasher Film Festival Strategy and Pentagram Home Video, while still locking into those wobbly VHS scores of the early Reagan years.
Side two opens on the pensive “Nether Bay”, building slowly with an electronic pulse and otherworldly vibe. “Strangers” leaves the icy tomb vibes for more of a gritty New York feel, ala Mr Eff’s Eyes Down or early Abel Ferrara vibes. There’s a touch of cautionary light with “There Is Still Some Light Out There”, giving us hope, false or otherwise, that we may make it to the dawn. “Who Goes There?”, a nod to the original store on which The Thing was based, closes out this arctic nightmare with John Harrison, ala Day Of The Dead, vibes. It may not be rays of sunshine, but with this this track it does seem that there may indeed be light out there.
Heinrich Dressel, aka Valerio Lombardozzi, has made the wintry synth album you didn’t know you needed with Shapeshifting. A block of icy dread and dense electronics to make any winter solstice all the better.
8.3 out of 10
Heinrich Dressel’s Shapeshifting is up for preorder later today, 12/4, via Spun Out Of Control. Head to Bandcamp this afternoon to order.