From the first few seconds of album opener “Nespole“, it’s quite clear where Floating Points‘ loyalty lies, the soft, filtered synths dragging you back to the early 90s ambient techno crowd of Orbital and Future Sound of London. Elaenia may have many hallmarks of some of electronic music’s best loved acts, but manages to etch out its own profile all the same.
Floating Points is the project of Manchester born Sam Shepherd, who initially made his mark by forming Eglo records in 2009, a label known for signing artists as diverse as house producer Funkineven and London R&B artist Fatima. Though many artists dislike the label of ‘IDM’, it seems apt to describe Shepherd’s music as intelligent. At the turn of the decade, Shepard was studying for a PHD in Neuroscience, although he has drawn a line between the two fields, admitting that he grows weary at interview questions on how his scientific background coexists with his music. During his studies, he found the time to release a number of singles and mixes under his Floating Points moniker, earning some exposure on BBC 6Music and small club venues.
“Silhouettes (I, II & III)” perhaps best reflects the myriad of styles that make up Floating Points’ music; at 10 minutes and 43 seconds it is comfortably the longest track on Elaenia, its three distinct segments providing an exposition of Floating Points’ styles, from chiptune to jazz and orchestral compositions. It’s the perfect track for a new listener, the cautious, ominous build up eventually gives way to a swirling vocal and violin melody.
Elaenia feels so accomplished and assured for a first album, its almost a wonder that this LP has been so long in the making – although Shepherd’s careful, methodical approach to the album clearly took some time to master. Floating Points’ DJ sets have a tendency to be ridiculously unpredictable, and have featured saxophone jazz albums (sometimes in full), carefully interwoven with classical and dance pieces, systematically selected from a reportedly ten thousand-strong record collection. It’s earned the producer acclaim, as well as the affectionate nickname of ‘the techno Einstein’, and those who attended the Manchester DJ’s live shows will find a lot to enjoy on this album.
In just seven tracks, Elaenia manages to span a range of atmospheres, the title track preceding them is a seven minute synth jam, the most free form track on the album. The peaceful ambience is short lived, and the escalating arpeggios of “Argente” and “Thin Air” create a sprinting, almost unnerving pace to complement the tranquillity of the opening tracks. Album closers “For Marmish” and “Peroration Six“, the former a luscious, glimmering bass-y, electro organ driven number, the latter a roaring post-rock crescendo. Elaenia is forty three minutes in length, but you will feel like you’ve travelled the world over by the end of it. The record’s beauty lies in its cohesiveness and amenability to twists and turns.
Shepherd’s music has earned significant praise from the dignitaries of contemporary electronic music, with Mr Scruff, Caribou and Four Tet noted followers of his output, the latter clearly sharing the artist’s fondness for obscure vinyl. Echoes of Bonobo can likewise be heard in the violins and breakbeats of Silhouettes. It’s likely that Floating Points’ first full release will propel him to the respect and acclaim of some of the forefathers of the electronic scene. Elaenia is out now on Pluto and Luaka Bop records in America, and can be purchased from iTunes here.
Words by Joseph David Horne