“Lost In A Moment,” the lone album by the duo Shrift, is a dreamy, atmospheric collection of evocative songs guided equally by Brazilian music and electronica. Released in 2006, it transports listeners elsewhere with its chill spirit and ticklish ingenuity.
“Lost In A Moment” veered away from mere loungy soundscapes and formal adherence to samba and bossa-nova traditions. Vocalist Nina Miranda’s soft, breathy voice attracted attention, but underneath it, Dennis Wheatley’s environment was in constant motion. New instrumentation appeared and then vanished: strings – berimbau, cello, viola and violin – upright bass, trumpet, accordion and the sounds of a wooden flute, harmonica and a plucked ukulele. Essential guest Chris Franck played the percussion instruments caxixi, darbouka, pandeiro, repique and tamborim as well as the guitar. Sound effects, including laughing children and splashes of water, were used deftly.
Sung in English and Portuguese by Miranda, who was born in Brazil, “Sereia” opened with traditional Brazilian percussion instruments, but the drums withdrew, only to return in a different form after interludes featuring violins played rapidly or gauzy synths; then, without foreshadowing, brass entered briefly. “Floating City” was driven by a pulsing bass line and the sound of swooping orchestral strings. Guitars, hand drums and synths were the platform for “As Far As I Can See,” in which Miranda overdubbed her voice to create a sweet harmony. In “Yes, I Love You,” nylon-string guitars were at the center of an arrangement that features a lush orchestra while “Blue” was ushered in by chiming keyboards that was fortified by bottom-heavy percussion.
Mutual admirers, Miranda and Wheatley began working together in London several years before the release of “Lost In A Moment.” She had been a member of Smoke City, a U.K. trip-hop group that also featured multi-instrumentalist Franck, and had sung with Bebel Gilberto, Nitin Sawhney and Jah Wobble, among others. Perhaps best identified by his working name Atlas, Wheatley was known for his willingness to recast all sorts of music as electronica. The duo’s early recordings drew attention for their contributions to two 2003 multi-artists albums compiled by the label Six Degrees Records. (Their song on “Traveler ‘03” isn’t quite up to the standards of its debut full-length. But their “One,” an early version of “Blue, is a highlight of the wonderful “Torch,” a collection of modern torch songs.) Anticipating rising, “Lost In A Moment” was released in early 2006. It was a hit among fans of trip-hop and mellow electronica.
In the title track, Miranda sang: “Lost in a moment of time…Lost in a breathless walk and sway.” That’s a pretty fair description of the album’s vibe. But that easy-going, wistful ambiance wasn’t its only means of expression. As a change up, “To the Floor” kicked off with a blast that sound like a synthetic version of a soul horn section. In “Hum,” another surprise: Guilherme Guimaraes’s voice wafted above gently cascading strings. “Once Upon A Dream” had a quality of a love song written for a Disney film. (In fact, there was a song titled “Once Upon A Dream” in “Sleeping Beauty,” but it’s not the same one as here.) “Lost in Portuguese” concluded the album with an a cappella entrance by Miranda; she was joined by atmospheric keyboards, orchestral strings, a thumping bass, brass and the distant rattle of percussion – as if all the textures on the disc wanted to make one last statement.
As stated earlier, Shrift never released a second album of original material. In 2007, a collection of remixed tracks from the album appeared: “Shrift Remixed” featured contributions by Da Lata, Outrun, the Real Tuesday Weld and Strange Worlds. Shrift remixed an Ennio Morricone track from the film “For A Few Dollars More” that turned up on “Cinematic: Classic Film Music Remixed” and a Bebel Gilberto song, “Bring Back The Love.” With “Lost In A Moment,” the duo made a memorable recording that remains fresh a decade later and stokes the dying embers of hope that they will record again.