- I was actually kind of worried about Floating Points for a minute. "Vacuum Boogie" and "People's Potential" were two of my favorite records of 2010; they showcased a virtuosity rare in electronic music and, potentially, pointed the way forward for a kind of jazz-dance that didn't get hamstrung by the same things that held back too much broken beat in the late '90s (noodling, ungainly rhythms, pro-forma fusion). But then the young London musician seemed to back off. The Floating Points Ensemble material for Ninja Tune felt overstuffed, complacent in its pairing of Rhodes and rainfall; June 2011's "Sais (Dub)" felt, in contrast, undercooked. The next two singles had their jams, but they seemed almost unwilling to indulge the breast-beating, anthemic excess that made the earlier tracks so special.
Well, I needn't have worried. The five-track Shadows EP is Floating Points' fullest, finest offering yet, with three standouts and two worthwhile tangents. We'll start with the latter: "Obfuse" is a nail-biter of an 808 freakout, and "Realise" is a cautious experiment in turning 2-step garage into ambient music, or perhaps vice versa; both thrum with strange, off-kilter rhythms, hip-hop's telltale MPC lurch folded in upon itself at high speed. The most modest of the three "major" tracks here, "Sais"—three minutes longer than its previously released dub—is a blissed-out 2-step skip overlaid with acid bleeps, actual orchestral strings and flickers of what might be jazz guitar; what's striking is the way it tricks you into thinking it's fuller than it is, with elements constantly fading into view and ducking out of the frame—the song's proportions amplified by sleight of hand.
"Myrtle Avenue" takes a similar tack, with limpid Rhodes and Ronny Jordan-styled guitar riffs played out over rolling drums (a heavenly mixture of machines and live kit), all lubricated with his customary G-funk leads. Over ten minutes, its intensities ebb and flow; the final four minutes are all decrescendo and reprise, gleaming with an almost post-coital glow. "Arp3" is the big one. Tight Rhodes riffing, insistent chord stabs, white-hot hi-hats, sullen synth bass—sailing along at a quick-footed house tempo, it's bigger than you think. Where other musicians use volume, Floating Points uses dynamics. His "drops" are free falls, not brick walls, and the landing's the sweetest thing ever.
01. Myrtle Avenue