The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website

Reviews

Shackleton
Freezing Thawing Opening EP Sophie Zola , February 3rd, 2014 04:25

There's something quite chromesthesia-inducing about Sam Shackleton's latest EP. Admittedly there's somewhat of an obvious visual trigger; longtime collaborator Zeke Clough's cover illustration screams with valiant tones of greens and yellows, lines exploding from the centre. It's a vibrant contrast to Clough's traditionally dark and twisting work, most notably that for 2012's Music For The Quiet Hour/The Drawbar Organ EPs, and an indicator in itself of Shackleton's own indomitable direction; always pushing forwards but simultaneously still very much referencing the core foundations of his past. Here, Shackleton relinquishes his preferred sample-based manipulations in favour of a much warmer, synthesised polyrhythmic whirlpool that at times makes the whole thing feel like a surreal but brilliantly psychedelic trip to B&Q on a Sunday afternoon combing through Dulux paint swatches.

While the Music For The Quiet Hour/The Drawbar Organ EPs were very much concerned with filling every corner of space available, greedily engulfing every layer of sound space and swallowing up a total of 137 minutes running time, Freezing Opening Thawing seems to seek a more fluid existence. Its delicate percussion-dominated structures bind and propel each track forward carefully, hemorrhaging between modulations rather than stacking them on top of one another. The concentric loops that permeate the EP's title track are both mesmerising and – backed by the thrusting percussion – noticeably movement-inducing when played at high volume.

The regulated percussive hooks and spiralling melodic rhythms move through a wheel of hues, bright inflated choral samples mutate into murky Germanic stutters – not abruptly, but with a certain dispersive laziness, like stirring a dirty brush into a jar of clean water. As the whole thing blossoms over eleven and a half minutes, ranging from intricate melodies to hollow John Carpenter horror synths, you can't help but wonder, especially considering this is a man known for his painstaking and meticulous approach to drum programming, just how long this all actually took to put together.

On the flipside, Shackleton continues with 'White Flower With Silvery Eye', a glassy, pulsing track that barely seems to pause for breath; relentless acerbic, almost acidic, synth lines halted only by smudges of title vocal samples. It hums with hypnotism, leading you into a swirling musical labyrinth that engulfs all notions of any previously narrative-propelled work. Order returns with final track 'Silver Keys' which, with its prominent elongated stabbed notes that loom ominously over frothing drum beats, is somewhat reminiscent of 90s Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo videogame soundtracks.

It later twists into something entirely beyond worldly construct – technological or otherwise – pushing outwards like Clough's artwork into a brilliant chasm of endless possibility. It's here, beyond the square frame, that the burning colours slide into muted purples and gleaming metallic silvers that lick into the sides of your consciousness, the overlapping of ethnographic percussion and synthetic whirring creating a sort of bizarre pan-planetary existence. It's easy to slip into its rhythm, to fall into the presumption that it will burn into a blinding white climax, or fade into non-existence, but the entire thing unexpectedly comes to an abrupt halt, colliding with a brick wall of silence. It's jarring, like being thrown across the floor of a bus as it suddenly rounds a corner without warning.

It leaves you with a quiet moment to ponder the space Freezing Thawing Opening occupies within Shackleton's ever-intriguing discography. While this EP forgoes industrial morbidity in favour of a flirtation with something a little more optimistic, exchanging grey for yellow and a rooting in the primitive for something that reaches out far beyond the ozone layer, it doesn't feel like it belongs in an entirely different realm from something like 'Hypno Angel' or 'Mountains Of Ashes', were they taken from the proverbial deep freeze, put into a pan and warmed on a hob, in the true spirit of the title. Instead it feels like a logical progression, one that could not have been easily predicted or that feels inevitable, but one that upon reflection makes complete and utter sense.

If you love our features, news and reviews, please support what we do with a one-off or regular donation. Year-on-year, our corporate advertising is down by around 90% - a figure that threatens to sink The Quietus. Hit this link to find out more and keep on Black Sky Thinking.