Thursday, 5 September 2013

SHIGETO NO BETTER TIME THAN NOW

In keeping with the motto of Shigeto's new album, No Better Time Than Now, I decided that there was no better time to write about it than now. I can't regret neglecting to write about it when it was released last month, and I can't put it off any longer - it's now that's the best time. Now is always the time. "Time" is "now".

There is an interesting concept of "now" in the form of what is called the "specious present". "Specious" means, well, it means kinda misleading or something like that. Specious present is related to that because it is a notion that asserts that what we deem to be "now" or "the present" is incorrect, and it's actually a perception over an interval in time. Basically, because things are always happening, moving, doing stuff around you, there is no pinpoint to where or more precisely when our senses actually lie when we talk about "the present" - therefore, our perceptions cover past, present and future all at once. When you listen to a song, the sounds seem as if they are ever-present, but in actual fact you keep brief recollections of what's just gone, what you're currently hearing, and what you're anticipating. Isn't this fun?

But enough of that. Here I am now, writing about this now-thing. Two things are quite obvious from the very start of this latest offering from Shigeto: 1. Nice beats, 2. Atmosphere. Each song simply revels in varying mixtures of these two elements. The beats are varied in texture and flavour. You have the bold, sharp-as-a-knife hip hop beat that swaggers along as in 'Detroit Part 1' (which I covered in more detail earlier this year) with snap-sound snares, as well as the super-slow hip hop lethargy of 'Silver Lining', then there's the understated pulse kick of 'Safe In Here' with its cascade of bristling glitter rainstick noises - that kind of beat is elevated on the underworld carnival track 'Ringleader' (again, more detail on that here); of course, the beat can add to atmosphere as well, for instance in the glitchy rumbles of 'Ritual Howl' and 'Olivia', where it serves as a support to the moody air of each - especially the latter, which is especially brooding with its all-encompassing bass.

My favourite beats lay in the following, however: Title track 'No Better Time Than Now' has an indefinable, almost constantly changing beat, basically switching from an electronic sound to a live, raw drum sound in the second half - an equally raw but more intensely bassy beat adorns the clattering 'Tell A Tale'; 'Perfect Crime' chases your thoughts away with unrelenting claps. What I really like about the general beatness of this album, however, is the amount of attention that's given to creating detailed beatscapes - almost every track has a plethora of ornamentation gathered around its main beat like clouds around a mountain. Woodblocks tap, tin-pan percussion steps in from the background, fizzy static pierces through, maracas shake, insectoid frenetic mandible-gnashing sounds bristle all around. Incredible detail.

But right next to this beatness, this beatscape, beatitudinal beatonomy, lays Shigeto's imagination - his ear for conjuring some really lovely atmospheres almost gives the sense that this album could be set to film or animation: some tracks are just bursting at the seams with the magical spirits of actual things, actual places, that for some reason or another I am hearing. 'Detroit Part 1' is one very good example, lamenting and conjuring images of a tired city. 'First Saturn Return', the beatless wonder, is like a galactic journey from the centre of your mind to the rest of the world, beginning with purely ambient noise and ending in an almost street-wise succession of melodies that sounds a little bit like the title screen to videogame Streets Of Rage. 'Soul Searching' has a dreamily determined air, with large doses of wobble and hopeful glockenspiel tinklings. Emotions, like the empty loss in 'Miss You' whose plaintive electric piano melodies touch the heart, or the reluctant grimacing happiness in the pseudo cheery tones and ghostly vocal samples of 'Silver Lining', play their part, too.

What more can I say? I've already said too much. Damn look how much I've written. Anyway. Here is a marvel of talent, not just in the making of supremely variegated beats, but in the creation of believable atmospheres that whisk you away from where you're sitting for as long as you listen for. In that atmosphere lies the sense of something soaring when before it had been downtrodden, the weary soul energising itself once more - despite the drowsy doldrums, there's the realisation that there truly is no better time than now and the gritted teeth determination of acting on that realisation.

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