To anyone who doesn’t know of Floating Points, aka Sam Shepherd, try picturing some kind of crazy scientist, frantically and maniacally experimenting with his hardware synths, smashing up the musical elements of the past and using them to make a new dance music concoction. Unsurprisingly, he’s not actually like this, and in fact seems incredibly grounded for a renowned DJ/producer who juggled his love of music and DJing with research for his PhD in Neuroscience for a few years whilst living as a student.
To those who already know who this guy is, the exceptional, meticulously detailed production of Crush will come as no surprise. Whilst Shepherd’s only other published album, 2015’s Elaenia, was produced and toured with a live band, his latest creation is firmly rooted in electronic music culture. Through the sheer dynamism of Shepherd’s abilities, this chaotic, mesmerising work looks to be one of the best electronic albums of the year.
Crush’s titles range from subtle, melancholic compositions to dark, hard-hitting club music. In the case of ‘Bias’, Shepherd achieves both of these in one song, with a jaw-dropping moment halfway through where so much harmonic tension from the beginning of the track suddenly gives way to a monumental breakbeat. ‘Bias’ is one of the standout tracks from the album but it is Shepherd’s earlier single releases – ‘Last Bloom’, ‘Anasickmodular’ and ‘LesAlpx’ – which will most likely be played out on dancefloors worldwide.
Whilst these inventive leftfield techno tracks seem to evoke the sounds of other electronic musicians – Four Tet and Jon Hopkins both spring to mind – they are still distinctly Shepherd’s own unique, boundary-pushing productions. Particularly noticeable in the formless, expressionistic ‘Karakul’, each tone strained out of Shepherd’s instruments feels alive, making for very enjoyable listening.
These heavier songs are balanced with the downright beauty of others. The album opener ‘Falaise’ merges orchestral strings with delicate synth work, as does the elegant ‘Requiem for CS70 and Strings’. It is the way Shepherd aligns varying musical elements into a cohesive and gripping whole throughout which makes this album into something special.
Image: Alvin Ho via Flickr