Floating Points – Shadows review

Eglo’s rise to become one of London’s premiere record labels has been built on various facets since its inception in 2009. Musically, the buttery soul of Fatima, the analogue degradations of FunkinEven and speaker box boogie of Arp101 amongst others have been complemented by the tireless vision of label boss Alex Nut, a man who has seemingly seen many a label run to the ground through mismanagement, and as such was finally forced into doing it right. From the outset however, Floating Points (aka Sam Shepherd) has always been the jewel in the Eglo crown, with his obvious enigmatic musicianship matched increasingly by ambition that veers towards the grand scale – see the Floating Points Ensemble material for the most overt example of that.

This latest keenly awaited release from Floating Points is a further stunning example of his ambition and production prowess, with Shadows primed as the first part of an ongoing experiment in immersive audio-visual displays between the producer and designer Will Hurt. Anyone who indulged in the pre release fanfare for Shadows will no doubt have basked in the excellent video for “Sais” which perhaps best portrays their experiments with software that generates visuals based upon activity from drum machines and synths. The vectorised nature of those experiments is replicated on this release via the spot varnished finish that covers both the outer and inner parts of the gatefold sleeve. That’s just one aspect of a truly impeccably presented release from Eglo, with the heavyweight vinyl that clocks in at 190gm housed in curved HPDE inner sleeves. Of equal importance, naturally, is the music and the five tracks here are perhaps Shepherd’s most accomplished to date, taking full advantage of the space afforded across the four side of vinyl.

“Myrtle Avenue” is a dreamlike way to open any release, plunging into vast, widescreen expanses of texture and detail, further cementing comparisons with Theo as the freeform keys align with undulating layers of percussion.  “Realise” and “Obfuse” are the precursors to the stand out tracks that occupy the second twelve, but are in no way filler, with the former teasing out finely placed 808 programming over pensive simmering patterns, whilst the latter is a fizzing, stripped down drum machine workout akin to Space Dimension Controller’s recent “Usurper” during the opening moments, though the metallic fierceness is offset by the eventual arrival of yet more tenderised synths.

And thus we come to “Arp3”, which has been mentioned in glowing terms by those lucky few for far too long and finally committed to the release it deserves. It’s a track which will secure Shadows a place in many hearts more, expertly billowing into a haunting techno production filled with so many production intricacies and deviations of a rhythmic nature, you feel compelled to lift the needle back to start many times over. The aforementioned “Sais” seems like the perfect choice to occupy the final twelve inches, with Floating Points finally revealing the full fuzzed out, orchestrated glory of a track which was only hinted at previously via the dubbed version which was released on Record Store Day. Shadows proves to be an illuminating insight into what 2012 and beyond holds for both label and artist.

Tony Poland