Sam Shepherd – the man, the neuroscientist, the DJ, the Plastic People resident – has finally released a debut album. It’s taken six years, and quite a few people have been waiting patiently.
In fact some people, since hearing the irresistible shuffle of “Vacuum Boogie” near the end of the last decade, have been desperate. But if you had skipped the time in between and jumped straight in, you might be a bit surprised at the end product. Elaenia is not a club record, but it is something that has been worth waiting for.
Rewind back the years, and Shepherd was not releasing music like this. Speaking as someone who was introduced to Shepherd’s music headphone-first rather than coming across him at Plastic People or a Warehouse Project, Floating Points has always stood out by making electronic music able to bridge a gap between dancefloors and bedrooms without alienating either camp. His music is elevated by its level of craft: his raw keboard riff under Fatima’s “Biggest Joke of All; the Floating Points Ensemble’s Post Suite EP at the turn of the decade and “K&G Beat”’s near Burial-esque shimmy all went above and beyond to build a genre-crossing level of hype. Shepherd had not only grown a sizeable following, but built a stage whereby a debut could have taken almost any route.
What's more, Elaenia is a record that feels like it’s taken six years to make. Some might see this level of craft to Elaenia as an affliction - middle parts of the record are slow but they're intentionally so. It certainly demands an attentive listen, and such a listen is best started from the beginning . “Nespole” opens the journey in taunting fashion: a muffled shuffle, various loops, rising, fading, fluctuating – but never dormant. Half way through a bassline starts drawing parts together – slowly growing in potency – and yet “Nespole” never gives you the satisfaction of bubbling over. A clue that patience may be a part of this album, it instead gives way to “Silhouettes (I, II & III)”. At just under 11 minutes, a review of this one track could quite easily extend beyond the word length of this entire spiel. It’s ethereal, unique, and quite remarkable.
Of all albums this year, Elaenia is one that could be – probably will be – discussed for some time. It’s as impressive and rewarding as you want to be. If you’re looking for some music to jog to, this probably isn’t it. But for an album to lose 40 minutes in – to remember what it feels like for an LP to challenge the listener to stay enveloped for its whole duration – look no further.