The name Floating Points (aka Sam Shepherd) may ring a few bells for you. Countless collaborations, singles and EPs under his belt from a sizeable five years in the business, he has been integral in the rise of “left field” electronica since his inception back in 2011. With all this in mind then, it may come as a surprise that Elaenia, his album that is released today, is just his first. Harnessing everything he has learned over the past five years and tying them together with an ease that merely highlights just how intelligent he really is, Floating Points has just released one of the most intricate, multi-faceted and accomplished albums of the year.
It’s been an interesting journey for Shepherd, but an intriguing one for fans to watch unfold. With each release, he further distances himself from the intelligent club tracks he was just so good at making: the type of music that saw him rise to the level of Caribou, Four Tet and Jamie xx. Whilst each artist had their own particular sound, all four still remained well within that dancefloor-oriented arena. That was until, of course, Elaenia.
This album is many things. It’s digital, but analog; simple, yet complex; easy to listen to, yet almost uncomfortable; controlled, but chaotic. It’s powerful in its delivery and it’s strong in raw and obvious talent. It says a lot without saying too much, and with each listen it continues to say more and more. The multi-layered approach mixed with the less-is-more approach is a technique that doesn’t sound like it would work, but with Elaenia it does so very well. Its building on what he’s already done, whilst paving the way for even stranger endeavours down the line. Sitting somewhere between cosmic jams and jazz-fusion, to an unfocussed listener Elaenia could sound like Shepherd was just throwing everything he could at a wall and going with what stuck. However, for someone who was switched on, it is so much more than that.
From the sprawling, glitchy, analog opener Nespole all the way through to the disconcerting and almost cruel closer Peroration Six (you’ll know what I mean when you hear it – no spoilers here), Shepherd has worked in so many layers it feels almost mathematical. Given he is trained in neuroscience and epigenetics, that could well be it. However, just because it has a more refined approach doesn’t make it any less emotive or dry. Instead, Shepherd has managed to create a constantly evolving shape-shifter of an album, taking on it’s own new form with each of it’s seven songs. Sticking to a skeletal formula for each track, Shepherd merely guides this creature into a suggested path, as if he knows it’s probably going to take off on its own anyway. Thin Air with it’s racing synths, subtle feedback noises and meticulously refined nature; leading single Silhouettes (I, II & III) with its slightly more accessible yet grand, over 10 minute delivery; even the delicate subtlety of For Mamish – Shepherd and his band of musical geniuses turn music into science with Elaenia.
Perfectly fluid and almost alive in the way it morphs and changes, the album could easily stand as a whole (which was the initial intention according to his interview with Pitchfork), or divided up as it is into seven tracks. Blissful, emotive and almost trance-inducing with the way it totally washes over you with wave after wave of new sounds, Elaenia is more of a journey or an experience as a whole than just a collection of songs, and it is stunning.
Elaenia is out November 6th via Pod/Inertia.