Album review: Floating Points – Reflections – Mojave Desert

Whether you are an original dubstep head, or a fan of modern jazz, you will probably heave heard about Floating Points…

Some may have discovered Sam Shepherd via his recent work with the 16 piece Floating Points Ensemble, others have followed his journey since his solo releases in 2009. As Floating Points he created techno inspired bass music, releasing on the prestigious Planet Mu, or his own label Eglo Records. His latest sonic adventure comes with a completely new outlook. As a passionate fan of jazz music Shepherd has taken his sound further, following in the footsteps of acts like Bonobo, to conduct and perform live. This move away from traditional DJ sets has opened up Shepherd’s creativity, and with his latest collection of music entitled Reflections – Mojave Desert, there are other similarities to Bonobo‘s latest album. As with Migration, there are individual visual treats to pair with each piece. These abstract combinations of lighting effects, real landscapes and CGI were directed by Anna Diaz Ortuno. Not only do they entertain the eyes but also correlate directly to the rhythms and tones within the music.

Sam Shepherd is an English electronic musician and neuroscientist, who records and performs music under the name Floating Points.

The massive 16 piece group who played at Glastonbury last year has been toned down to a humble 5 piece, but their rich arrangements would have you thinking otherwise. On the sleek breakdown of Silurian Blue, as we see the band recording in the middle of a barren desert, and Shepherd’s vintage keyboards have space to breathe. But when the full arrangement returns it appears even fuller, with an epic portion of organs, guitar, bass and drums. This bold journey into outer space and back is one of the releases most impressive moments, taking influence from the ever unconventional Pink Floyd.

It has only taken 2 years for Shepherd (who is a trained neuroscientist) to evolve into a very accomplished studio engineer, and this project is a testament to that. Inspiring some unique recording techniques, like swinging microphones to record appreciated synths bouncing off boulders. They have even chosen to keep a lot of the ambient sounds from the environment in the recordings, if you listen closely you may be able to hear the wild coyotes and tumbleweed rolling through the desert.

Leo Taylor‘s efforts on the drums are really what brings this Shepherds ideas together, whether it’s his furious tom action on Kelso Dunes, or his half-time grooves on the heavenly Silhouettes. Once again you can’t help but compare Silhouettes in particular to Bonobo‘s work, not that this is a bad thing. They both have a very similar musical background, and their marriage of jazz and electronic music is bound to cross paths eventually. As an alien light pattern darts around the rocky textures, a shining synth also appears to follow its movements. Beautiful vocal layers, woodwind and piano all working together harmoniously. As the track swaps between halftime and double time energy, we get to see a glimpse into the studio where the light trickery was staged.

There is so much to take in with this short film and soundtrack that it deserves a second watch / listen almost instantly. The band has chosen to create tension in some of the pieces, meaning that on the whole it may be a more challenging listen. But if you persevere with the occasional off-key moment you will be rewarded with one of the year’s top releases so far. Why not come and hear it at its best on one of our hi-fi systems in store today?