Photo by Jim Sanborn
Ever since Sam Shepherd released the instant classic re-rub of Real To Reel’s “Love Me Like This” in 2009, the producer has been on a steady roll, releasing a series of highly collectible plates for the most part on Eglo, the label he runs with Alexander Nut. Though his past releases have clearly reflected his studies in jazz, Sam Shepherd’s latest offering, released just a month shy of 2012, seems to be the most cohesive link between his training in the field and his penchant for electronic music. But there are also references throughout the double vinyl package to the UK sound he’s surrounded by; it’s everywhere from the broken step and rapid-fire rimshots of “Obfuse” through to the more obvious, plaintive melodies and stilted percussion of “Realise.” It’s also apparent on the housier tracks — particularly “ARP3″ and “Sais” — where the shuffling drum patterns and compressed rhythms are in line with the productions of many of the UK’s other exponents of bass music gone the way of house and techno.
Being the A-side, “Myrtle Avenue” is the obvious go-to track; it’s typical of Shepherd’s sprawling, house music writ large as a freestyle jazz session style he’s laid down before on many previous releases. I can’t help but be reminded of another producer who likewise has fused jazz sensibilities with techno; in “Myrtle Avenue” it’s almost impossible not to hear the similarities to Carl Craig’s Innerzone Orchestra work and his More Songs About Food And Revolutionary Art album. The track swings with the familiar pulse of Shepherd’s other notable tracks like “People’s Potential” and “Love Me Like This,” though where those tracks were more directly aimed at the dance floor, “Myrtle Avenue” skirts its perimeters.
For direct dance floor pressure “ARP3″ and “Sais” both weigh in with their own considerable might. The menacing nature of “ARP3″ is underscored by lighter melodies and also bears comparison to Craig — those insistent keys at the start of the track are quite similar to those used on “At Les.” “ARP3″ is largely a different beast, though, centered on the dark nature of its bass line and tempered by the melodic chord arrangements. “Sais,” which originally came out as a dub version on a limited run dub 10″ last April gets an overhaul here and may well be my pick of the bunch. The broken-beat and deep, mining bass line propel this bitter-sweet track, packed full of live instrumentation and machines affect by a human touch, “Sais” rates as one of the most “beautiful” Floating Points tracks to date. “Obfuse” and “Realise” act as the more experimental off-siders of the package. “Realise” carries a strain of major electronic infection from the early 90s, possessing dilated, ambient depth and a whisper of ill, proto-jungle deep in its core, while “Obfuse” is a sparse, dry-ice drum track bookended by tendrils of barely there, smoked-out synths.
Some may see only the similarities in Shepherd’s work, that he often paints with the same palette, and it’s true that many of his house- and techno-oriented tracks share a similar feel. But while the broad brushstrokes may be familiar, the details and the color used for each of his releases varies greatly from one piece to the next. Shadows exemplifies the differing sides of Shepherd and shows a producer who continues to grow, reaching greater musical heights as he does so.