Shackleton is consistent. Starting with the first pop of a drum on his singles, the percussion stays round and full, the bass cascades with uncanny depth, the space between is frigid. Shackleton’s sound is dark, opaque. From the elegiac wind blasts of “Blood on my Hands” to the outright menace of “Hypno Angel,” tone and texture hardly vary. The secret is in the drums. Unlike dubstep’s insistence on puncturing tracks with the monosyllable of a snare, Shackleton’s percussion delineates space. Like the rattled pause at the beginning of “Hamas Rule,” Shackleton leans into every tic, leaving negative space cruel and precise. A friend described his tracks as “utterly empty” and it’s true — in the bleakest, unnerving way.
As Shackleton’s first single for the Skull Disco in a year, “Death is Not Final” is a change. Gone is his dirge, the place where whimpers turned into growls. Like minimal techno’s embrace of him, Shackleton has returned the favor by adopting the 4/4 time signature. Empty spaces are harder to discern, but Shackleton never sounds lighter. His drums were always insistent, but on “Death is Not Final” they have turned insectoid — shinier, sleeker, kinetic, forbidding. Shackleton only offers a blank recant of a monologue and dubbed Arabic hook to cushion the crawl. T++ from Monolake offers a remix, but his dub and detune of the hook gets lost in the hiccup on the three and four.