It’s always something of an occasion when a new Floating Points release drops, such is the measured way in which Sam Shepherd has issued forth his music over the past couple of years. In the much-lamented era of ever-increasing rapidity, his method is one that makes each record really count, and in truth his music has those unique, somewhat magical qualities that do justice to annual appearances. It does of course also load expectation upon each release to deliver with flying colours, and up to this point it’s arguable that Shepherd has done nothing but. Predictably distinctive might sound like a back handed compliment, but there is no doubt you can always count on that indefinable flair that sets Floating Points productions a prairie apart from even his closest neighbours in the house-meets-disco hinterland.
It’s no different here, with two long-form tracks that allow Shepherd’s refined musicianship to unfurl at a loose and leisurely pace. That’s not to say the tone is laconic, far from it. “King Bromeliad” has been doing the rounds in the right hands for a little while, and the lo-fi mic-in-the-room intro from Shepherd’s residency at Plastic People makes for a fitting tease of an intro to the hard grooving core of the track. The live flavour to the drums is impossible to resist as it wriggles away in shuffled abandon, but the Rhodes-esque bassline caps it off for the absolute apex of possible funk that can be worked into a 4/4 refrain. From there the additional chord flourishes worm their way in slow and steady, composed with band dynamics in mind, even if this was not likely a one-take recording. The harmonising elements that take the track to its peak in the second half add a whole new emotional lilt to the track before a flourishing breakdown gives way a nasty refrain, riding the track out to its logical conclusion.
In keeping with tradition, the second side of the record gives over to a slightly more esoteric approach, although “Montparnasse” still shivers with a technoid rhythm structure even as it imparts a more wistful, spiritual message. This is a track that sunrise set dreams are made of, with the mildly anthemic qualities of the central chord progression tempered by careful filtering while the Indian vocal drifts in and out of the mix with a distant poignancy. It unfolds with patience, making a subtle shift towards a more abstract kind of groove that unexpectedly melts away into a beatless arpeggio meltdown of the most cosmic kind.
It’s in the subtle movements and playful nature of Shepherd’s productions that his gift shines through, always understated but constantly injecting vibrancy into his music. One can only marvel at the subtle twists and turns that unfold over a lengthy Floating Points track; somehow they always manage to be elegant and refined without ever sacrificing energy and excitement.
A1. King Bromeliad