What do I want when I put a record on?
Well I guess that very much depends on my mood, sometimes I want to feel elated… sometimes I want to feel affirmed… sometimes I want to remember/ forget… sometimes I want to dance… sometimes I just want to think… and sometimes I just want to see where the music takes me.
There is arguably something for every type of me on this album from Floating Points, a project from the Manchester-born multi-instrumentalist, DJ, producer and neuroscientist Sam Shepherd. It is an album not of highs and lows… or peaks and troughs… but an album of changes and sonic seasons. It is an album that takes you with it… but also challenges you; it pounds your brain… but also at times soothes your soul. It is not an album to be taken lightly… but it is definitely one to enjoy.
Shepherd first came to prominence with his 2015 debut ‘Elaenia’ which was notes for its transcendental beauty, a fluid album that arguably had more in common with late-Talk Talk than the club scene where he also operated.
‘Crush’, essentially the follow up to ‘Elaenia’ is not from the same stock, and while Shepherd did not spend the interim time making it (he apparently recorded in in five weeks) he has clearly moved to a different place with this latter work… in that sense that both stand up in their own space.
‘Crush’ opens up with ‘Falaise’, a cool and measured start which in many ways gives clues to the sort of album we can expect here as a smooth, almost bucolic rhythm is interrupted by beats and sonic ructions that leave you wondering what is going to happen and, on my first listen out of context, whether this is going to be something for you.
Eventually you realise that this is something of an overture, getting you in the right space for an adventure which is really going to take to on a musical journey not to forget.
This commences with ‘Last Bloom’ which emerges with its breakbeats and electronic flourishes which do not immediately seem to be adding anything new, but seem to me to be another layer on the work as the album takes you slowly off piste. ‘Anasickmodular’ continues with the journey, taking in some lush jazz rhythms interspersed with some experimental electronics… which break the track up and add uncertainty and anxiety to the mix in a way that becomes increasingly unsettling.
After that ‘Requiem for CS70 and Strings’ is a wonderfully reflective piece which is really richly produced and is full of both joy and melancholy… it’s the sort of track I could imagine having at my funeral… it seems to fit and yet be at a tangent at the same time… it’s how I would want it.
‘Karakul’ is almost a interlude… a fragmented track that seems to have no centre, but which increases the impact of ‘LesAlpx’ which is an absolute banger of a tune that brings in many club genre which gel into the sort of track you could imagine being extended into a massive 12″ remix (The is on see here) … the way it takes off at 1’20” is just something else, as is the bridge a minute later… oh and the fucking bass on it… one of my tracks of the year so far.
By this point Shepherd has fully got you, and ‘Bias’ is another classy track which draws you into a mirky and claustrophobic world before gradually easing you out of it as the sinister, while not wholly extinguished, becomes something more beat driven and groove-laden.
That sense of unease is continued with ‘Environments’… a track which, at its heart… could come out of a Future Sound of London/ Orbital session of the late 90s yet, crucially, with some added beats and loops which somehow take it out of time (not that a lot of the FSOL etc… stuff sounds outdated… it doesn’t).
Just as you think ‘Environments’ is going to take you completely off the rails it stops and is replaced by the soothing tones of ‘Birth’, a track which feels like an oasis in a desert of meaning… a place to just go and be.
This, to some extent, is maintained by ‘Sea-Watch’ a track which I can imagine can be fulfilled by its title… staring at the sea is something that I can do for hours… and this track seems to reflect that meditative tranquility…
The album finishes with ‘Apoptose Parts 1 and 2’ which in some ways collectively seems to bring the album together… there is a sense of calm at first but as we move into ‘Part 2’ there is also both a increase in tempo a well as a return to that sense of anxiety… the idea that things are moving too fast and getting out of our control.
Getting to the end of this album feel like an achievement… I do not mean this in a negative way, it is just that it is such a journey, and one that the more I listen to it the more it seems to reflect the complex matrix of variety and change with marks our lives as we move into the third decade of the twenty-first century… it’s an album that, for me, shows how we feel the threat of being left behind… but also how we find gnammas of meaning within the chaos… and how these can sooth our anxieties and help us to survive.
‘Crush’ is out not on Ninja Tune.
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