Few producers in modern dance music can claim the same breadth and depth of musical understanding as Sam Shepherd, the man more commonly known as Floating Points. A jazz aficionado and one of the most respected audiophiles in the UK, he has earned praise as a producer, composer, DJ and label head, having overseen some stunning releases from FunkinEven, Fatima and several others through his Eglo imprint. Few care more about their output than the meticulous Mancunion, so we thought it fitting to cast him as the main man for this latest Essential Listening piece. Here’s how it shaped up.
Floating Points doesn’t necessarily make immediate music, but he excels in placing extraordinary attention to detail upon gently evolving progressions, making his tracks easy to get lost in as they escort you smoothly from one place to another. The myriad of loops weaving in and out of King Bromeliad are a near perfect example.
BBC Radio 1 Essential Mix
Anyone who’s seen FloPo DJ in the last few years should have been expecting big things when he was announced for the BBC Essential Mix, and few would have been disappointed as he ventured through Latin jazz through to disco, funk through to house and techno and then jumped back to whence he came with the eccentric genre-skipping that we’ve become accustomed to in his sets. Not many people can cram Gil-Scott Heron, Mary Clark, Pearson Sound, Trio Ternura and Jesse Gould into two hours and make them fit together seamlessly, but Floating Points is no ordinary DJ.
Electro jazz that chugs along like a steam engine, growing in stature as it fades in from the muted first few minutes. Developing from a trippy spiral of restrained acid into a straighter dancefloor jam, Nuits Sonores is a ten-plus minute journey that demonstrates Shepherd’s special skill: kneading the brain with subtle pulls and tugs rather than bludgeoning it into a mess with sledgehammer kicks as so many house producers seem to favour.
Another track with jazz melodies and percussive shuffles with a brushed feel to them, “Myrtle Avenue” is a melodious and charming exploration of lighter sounds and chimes, given plenty of headspace thanks to breaks in the rhythm and moments of total silence. A sleepy morning or evening glass of wine kind of track, perfect for home listening.
Silhouettes I, II and III
Arguably the crown jewel of his 2015 album Eleania, “Silhouettes I, II and III” starts much the same as many of his productions, with hectic percussion restrained in the background by a quiet mix as melodies take the ascendency. Moving through varied dynamics and clear peaks and troughs, the track comes into its own as sumptuous strings soar halfway through, heightening tension for what seems like an age and then washing away at the point at which release seems imminent. Far from being anti-climactic, this false crescendo instead ushers in a slower, softer release for an even more emotional resolution. A suitable stopping point for our Essential Listening selection.
Floating Points will be playing in Liverpool at the first part of the new ENRG series at Invisible Wind Factory on Friday 30 September, and should make a perfect booking for an event that looks to bring a more studious approach to partying.
Words by Andrew Kemp
Photo courtesy of The Windish Agency