Combining swirling psychedelic rock with hardcore hip-hop rhythms, the Shamen were one of the first alternative bands to appeal to dance clubs as much as indie rockers.
Comprised of Colin Angus, Peter Stephenson, Keith McKenzie, and Derek McKenzie, the Scottish quartet had its roots in the early-'80s neo-psychedelic group Alone Again Or. The Shamen officially formed in 1986 and released their first album, Drop, the following year. Drop was filled with varying guitar textures, recalling many late-'60s rock groups. After the record's release, Angus immersed himself in the emerging acid house/hip-hop club scene, which prompted the departure of Derek McKenzie; he was replaced with William Sinnott, who helped reshape the band's sound into a dense, rhythmic pulse that relied heavily on samples, drum machines, and loud guitars. The band debuted their revamped sound in 1988 with a stage show that featured sexually explicit visuals along with impassioned political rhetoric. During 1988, Peter Stephenson and Keith McKenzie departed, leaving Angus and Sinnott to perform as a duo.
With their 1989 album In Gorbachev We Trust, the Shamen expanded their following in Britain and began attracting American listeners. The duo continued to concentrate on dance music throughout 1989, adding rappers to their live shows. Just as the band was heading toward mainstream acceptance, Will Sinnott drowned off the coast of the Canary Islands on May 23, 1991. With the Sinnott family's encouragement, Angus continued the Shamen and the group did indeed begin to score hits, particularly in the U.K. where they amassed five Top 20 singles between 1991 and 1992; "Move Any Mountain (Progen 91)" managed to make it into the American Top 40 at the end of 1991, as well. However, the Shamen fell out of favor during 1993 and their 1994 album Different Drum failed to gain much of an audience. Nevertheless, the group continued to record, releasing Axis Mutatis in 1995, Hempton Manor in 1996, and UV in 1998. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine