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White Noise: Floating Points – Shadows EP

Friday, 2 December 2011

Floating Points – Shadows EP

Myrtle Avenue



Sam Shepherd has always occupied a curious space just beside the ‘next big thing’, experimenting on current and past trends in a skilled and often subdued fashion, and his new EP Shadows is no different. What’s most important to realise, however, is his acute and engaging compositions are rendered far more timeless by his personal touches and unwillingness to compromise to contemporary trends, and being just out of the spotlight seems to suit him to a tee. With his recent and surprising single (also on Eglo) Danger, Shepherd showed a new direction for Floating Points, with far more minimal and experimental compositions that glowed with a mastery and warmth rarely found in today’s dance scene. Here on Shadows, he’s twinned this fascinating style with a stronger dance drive, and the result is utterly fantastic.

The fact is, as much as I love the current Bass scene, it’s all starting to sound quite samey; there’s only so far you can go with broad synth strokes, tight drums and sexy RnB vocals. The five tracks that constitute Shadows are unique and understated, two words that could hardly be less applicable to most of what’s coming out at the moment. As a result, the tunes here may at first feel a little inaccessible, but given a little time and attention they open up a treat. First cut Myrtle Avenue is a perfect introduction to the sound; warm beats and clicks create an incredibly broad percussive soundscape over which Shepherd expertly applies organic synths, occasionally with a welcome jazzy effect.  The dream-like tune runs for ten minutes but is not boring for even a second, eschewing build-ups and drops for a far more natural construction that is a joy to hear, as well as rewarding the interested listener with great moments and sounds with every repeated listen (try and find the gorgeous vocal snatch adding to the sultry mood towards the end of the track).

The other big-hitter here is ARP3, a track of similar length and quality, but with a very different feel to it. After a couple of minutes of lovely build-up a 4/4 enters the fray, and big synths emerge from the mist to introduce a nuanced and deliberate Techno tune, showing just how versatile Floating Points is as a producer. While this track (and others) may sound a little tame on the bass front on a home system, he dropped a couple of these tracks while DJing here in Paris last week, and the monstrous sub-bass adds an entirely different level to these already-great tunes. It also proves that these tracks can be enjoyed in very different ways at home or at the club, and while this isn’t a rare compliment, the effect is rarely pulled off with such style.

Although those two tunes immediately stand out on first listens, that is no way an indication that the others included on the EP are weaker. Shepherd’s compositions are near-symphonic in the amount a single track can twist and turn to thrilling effect, and this logic is also applied to the variety of compositions on Shadows; where a central sound is stretched towards different boundaries in each track. On second track Realise, dusty beats and melodic synth swells produce gorgeous and atmospheric cut, occasionally penetrated to striking effect by a perfectly-placed vocal note. Meanwhile Obfuse is darker and more stripped down, with finely textured stuttering percussion taking centre stage.

Beautiful closer Sais might be remembered from the press release, accompanied by the musically-generated video that perfectly expresses the warmth and shape of Floating Points’ sound, and is the first part of a proposed long-term collaboration with designer Will Hurt. The track itself is intensely evocative, veering from well-paced beats and gorgeous synths to an orchestral build-up which swells to bursting point before dropping away. Not content to repeat that great drop, Shepherd makes the next a ringing build of a single synth note, illuminating the sound like a light shining through fog.

More than any other track here, the closer symbolises everything that is so wonderful about Shadows and Floating Points in general, a mastery of craft, a deeply felt warmth and originality, and more than anything a subdued restlessness which means these tracks are always changing and their dancier characteristics shine through what could otherwise be seen as more ambient pieces. This EP is a total success; an original and exciting release that offers more and more with every listen.


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At 7 December 2011 at 18:47 , Blogger Magist3r3 said...

Great EP.

At 4 January 2012 at 01:48 , Anonymous Emmanuel said...

An amazing Rew, my compliments really

At 4 January 2012 at 01:59 , Blogger Tom Faber said...

Thanks so much man, it really means a lot.

At 16 November 2012 at 19:51 , Blogger ramon simms said...

nice review man. i totally dig this album.


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