This Floating Points album review was written by Dan Martin, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by John Gittins
A quick Google search of ‘Elaenia’ will find you facts and images of a specific genus of passerine bird inhabiting regions of South America and Mexico and like a bird, Floating Points’s debut full length album glides ferociously towards the horizon.
The album is best heard in one sitting, as it’s essentially one large track split into seven instances. It may be 40 minutes long but the beauty lies in its fluidity, flowing from one track to the next bringing sparse, rich contextual flavours with a lingering sensibility.
Unlike the plethora of electronic artists who rely on loops and samples, Sam Shepard cultivates using only live instrumentation and analogue synthesisers, creating an improvised world ‘Elaenia’ at its core. Even with irregular time signatures and subtle pulsations it’s hard to imagine Shepard playing this on the dance-floor as ‘Elaenia’ is more introspective and less egotistical. It would be more fitting on a long bus ride home or in a café on a Sunday afternoon.
‘Nespole’ lays the foundations on what ‘Elaenia’ entails: ambient bleeps and bloops that envelop and swirl before leading us towards ‘Silhouettes (I, II, III)’. The track is easily one of the more jazz influenced tracks on the album, with sighing harmonies easing in and out to the point of an possible Thom Yorke cameo.
The title track is hypnagogic. It’s as if we’re navigating a space ship into the further corners of a far flung galaxy hearing a hissing noise on the intercom with various dials, travelling into the unknown. It’s beautiful yet intimidating. ‘Argente’ is a bold piece of work, a slow and suspenseful tempo elevating in volume where a chaotic odyssey continues into ‘Thin Air’.
‘For Marmish’ is perhaps the most ‘danceable’ track on here as we are serenaded with a moody keyboard piece drifting alongside warm house grooves, reminiscent of Talk Talk in their later period, had they taken an electronic path. The last track, ‘Peroration Six’ is a belter, conjuring all the might and energy of the entire record like an active volcano. It builds and builds before cutting unexpectedly with a few off key bleeps, leaving the last few remaining seconds devoid of any sound. In effect the sound of nothing is just as frenzied as the track, becoming a sound in its own right.
One of the most vivid characteristics of this album is the use of dynamics, as they fleet from quiet spaces to seismic vibrations, creating an emotional soundscape. In essence the music feels timeless.
What we need to remember about this record is that the textures are improvised, maybe even accidentally, demonstrating Shepard’s craft as he fine-tunes every minute detail, honing a little here and there on his piece which shows telltale signs of academia. Studying a PhD in Neuroscience at UCL it begs the question whether Floating Points secretly discovered how to manipulate our minds to his own selfish will…either way, he has succeeded elegantly.
‘Elaenia’ is out now via Rough Trade Records.