Sunday, 11 October 2009

Vinyl Only #5 : Shackleton - 3 EP's

Shackleton has been responsible for some of the most startling links between techno, electronica and dubstep. Skull Disco's compilation 'Soundboy's Gravestone Gets Desecrated by Vandals' was my soundrack to winter 2008; the sparse ethnic-influenced rhythms, massive sub-bass and arctic synthlines combined into a perfectly miserable accompaniment to the darkening of days. So much did I enjoy this unique, otherworldly sound that Shackleton was one of my 'must see's' at Freerotation, but playing after 2562's peak time, floor destroying set, his performance left me intrigued and sonically challenged, but mostly uncomprehending of what I had heard. This extended release sheds light on his set that night and the evolution of his uniquely bleak sound.

After the death of Skull Disco and relocation to Berlin, Shackleton has released little new material, but instead has released several killer remixes including a sublime take on Moderat's 'Rusty Nails'. The Three Ep's release (Shackleton's first album or three independent EP's?) on the much respected Perlon shows a marked move away from the dancefloor and a focus on electronic experimentation, resulting in a beautifully dark melancholic sound described on RA as forays into "the fathomless nether-regions of dark, leftfield computer music."

Listening to opening track "[No More] Negative Thoughts" all the trademarks of previous Shackleton material are present: a sparsely minimal and atmospheric arrangement, ethnic toms, reverberant spoken vocals, all underpinned by deep bass and soul-less synth stabs. These dark themes continue through "Asha in the Tabernacle", "It's time for Lone" and "Moon over Joseph's Burial", two tracks that drone and whisper unceasingly and slightly scarily.

'Let's Go' steps up a gear, as the title would suggest. A wondering 'get-up-and-dance' bassline underpins explorations of the ethnic material that made early Shackleton material so interesting- vocal chanting, clipped horns, reverb, reverb, and more reverb, topped with plenty of whistling, pinging and clattering. The fittingly titled 'Mountains of Ashes' has a rumbling, earthquake inducing sub-bass that would reduce all before it to rubble, with an ever growing and changing smattering of eastern influenced percussion. 'Trembling Leaf' takes a Burial-esque approach with cut up and seemingly petrified vocal snippets over intricately programme rhythms.

The final tracks see Shackleton leave any dancefloor tendencies (if there are any in this release) well and truly in the distance for some of the darkest industrialised leftfield experiments I've heard. 'There's a slow train coming' really rumbles out of your speakers with skittery off kilter bass and rhythm accompanied by the darkest oscillating synthline in existence. Prize for the scariest track on the release goes to 'Something has got to Give', an all enveloping and morose track that is restrained from the suicidal by occasional bursts of metallic rhythm. This really is something that would kill your Granny.

For me, this release by one of the most interesting producers out there at the moment sees him letting go of the shackles (see what I did there) of the dancefloor and exploring the agitated and restless contrast between his trademark sounds: the most pure black, suicide inducing and otherworldly atmospheric soundscapes fight throughout with skittering, wandering ethnic influenced percussion that pull the sound back from the edge, all underpinned by rumbling bass. This album will certainly be my soundtrack to the long winter nights this year, and all I can say is bring on the cold.

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