You may not have heard of Zach Saginaw. You may not have heard of Shigeto, his musical moniker . You probably will have heard of Ghostly International, the Michigan-born electronic label that is responsible for releasing No Better Time Than Now and a host of other remixes and EPs created by Zach under the Shiegto banner. At first glance, Shiegto slides in nicely alongside Ghostly’s other talent (Matthew Dear, Beacon, School of Seven Bells). Good company, no doubt. But, given the incredible wealth of electro/house out there at the moment – encapsulated by Ghostly’s offerings – all of which is gaining more and more recognition from an ever larger audience, how does Shigeto stand out?
Then you hear the record. If you want to term Shigeto’s music ‘ambient’ – and some would – you tar it with a beige brush. The overwhelming drabness of the term overrides your faculties of judgement and lets you believe that this record is simply ‘OK’. But don’t be so hasty. On the first listen you might miss it. It’s easy to overlook. But then slowly, slowly, given time, it appears: the shimmering, all-absorbing, kaleidoscopic subtlety that makes this album work.
Shiegeto’s sound is more than just a collection of smooth synths that make you feel like you’re in some chic Shoreditch cocktail bar (although it kind of does that too). It is a cross-cultural fusion, a genre-bending, continent-spanning musical Rorschach test. If you look closely enough, you can find just about any style or influence you like within this intricate tapestry of sound.
Shiegto’s sound has one foot in the past and spans the globe. Japanese taiko drums, drawing on Saginaw’s family lineage (Lineage, incidentally, is the title of his first long player), nestle next to Latin rhythms on ‘Ringleader’. The flourishes and melodies found in ‘Perfect Crime’ and the vibes on ‘Miss U’ sound like they stepped straight out of a ’60s jazz number. ‘Detroit Part 1’, from the title onward, seems like a sensitive tribute to Matthew Dear. ‘Olivia’s rolling, sumptuous bass-line, finished with Shigeto’s infinitely delicate, gossamer touch, is seriously sensuous. It will give you shivers.
Ultimately, No Better Time Than Now might prove to be somewhat ironically titled. Despite its timely aesthetic, it stands as a reminder that meaning isn’t always best expressed in 140 characters and musical beauty can’t always be achieved in 3 minutes 21 seconds with a singalong chorus. Sometimes in life you just need to pay attention to really appreciate something, you know? This one’s a slow burner. And it’s nice to be reminded that sometimes, that’s a good thing.