Step­ping out­side the house

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - MUSIC REVIEWS - CHRIS JONES

Sam Shep­herd is best known for im­mac­u­lately pro­duced, oceans-deep house mu­sic, DJ sets that run the ga­mut from soul, disco and Latin rar­i­ties to slam­ming house tracks and – most re­cently – his close re­la­tion­ship with both Four Tet and Cari­bou. He may still be in his 20s, but the Manch­ester-born pro­ducer’s tracks Vac­uum Boo­gie, Sparkling Con­tro­versy

and Nu­its Sonores stand tall along­side the work of Theo Par­rish, Moody­mann or any other Amer­i­can deep house leg­end you care to name. He has lit­tle to prove on that front.

Per­haps that’s why his first full-length al­bum is such a de­par­ture. He’s not a dance mu­sic lifer – his back­ground is in clas­si­cal com­po­si­tion and jazz pi­ano – and Elae­nia is not your av­er­age dance mu­sic LP. The for­mat has given him the chance to stretch him­self mu­si­cally and as a re­sult th­ese seven tracks, recorded with a live band, have more in com­mon with Por­tico, Po­lar Bear or clas­si­cal min­i­mal­ists like Steve Re­ich than his house peers.

Much of the record is beat­less – the open­ing Ne­spole un­furls de­li­ciously and de­rives its un­de­ni­able for­ward mo­men­tum from a se­ries of com­ple­men­tary synth and or­gan lines. Later, Shep­herd does some­thing sim­i­lar on the gauzy Thin Air, this time us­ing no more than tick­ing hi-hats and per­cus­sive synths for propul­sion. While the record me­an­ders a lit­tle around the mid­way point, this is head mu­sic: the aquatic grooves and gor­geous son­ics will pull you un­der be­fore you’ve even re­alised.

The real high­lights come with the spar­ing use of a jazz drum­mer, par­tic­u­larly the stun­ning Sil­hou­ettes – a cos­mic odyssey that ranks with his best work – and the clos­ing Perora­tion Six. It’s the dark­est, most un­set­tling mo­ment on the whole record, where for the only time Shep­herd re­moves the shack­les from him­self and his ac­com­pa­nists and em­braces the thrilling chaos of a live band. It’s not dance mu­sic, but it’s very spe­cial in­deed. float­ing­


Elae­nia ★★★★


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