- Loka's 2006 debut, Fire Shepherds, is one of the Ninja Tune catalog's dark horses—or maybe more appropriately, considering its debt to '70s jazz-funk, one of its dark maguses. The album was a dense, widescreen, psychedelic soundtrack some 40 years out of time, but with a modern pulse that took in a good amount of what had come, rhythmically, since Bullitt.
Over five years later, with founding member Karl Webb's departure, Mark Kyriacou picks up the pieces and the edges soften considerably. Passing Place compared to Fire Shepherds is like a butterfly compared to a marsh. That's not meant entirely dismissively—sometimes you feel like pastels. It's occasionally very lovely music, with a more pronouncedly light-aired Norwegian air to it. There are few wah-wahs to be heard. Kyriacou's urgent piano and Ian "Budgie" Jones's steadily bashed cymbals lend "Sam Star" some urgency to go with its high, echoing grace notes—which return at the top of "Mirror Image Opposite," in which Jones leads a sprint through sonorous cello.
But where "downtempo" meant laconic tempos the first time through, here it signifies a different kind of slowing pulse. "The Sounds Stars Make" is polite dinner music, nothing more or less—the kind old rock and rollers used to make fun of, and were largely right to. "Temporary External" is a straight-up movie theme in the "Love Theme From . . ." sense, unfortunately, from Eleanor Mante's warbled "I'll be true" (etc.) on down.
The album's unevenness isn't puzzling, though. It's telling that "Frida Mae," the centerpiece of Fire Shepherds, kicks up more dust in ten minutes than Passing Place does in 50. On the other hand, it feels a little churlish to complain. I don't imagine anyone expecting a precise encore is ever going to be quite satisfied—it's one of those albums that seemed out of time then (if only it had been released in 1997!) but as timelines turn further to taffy only a half-decade on Fire Shepherds already sounds rather timeless. As for this—well, there's got to be a morning after.
01. Entrance feat. Sera Baines
02. As The Tower Falls feat. Eleanor Mante
03. The Tower
04. The Art Of Burning Bridges
05. Sam Star feat Eleanor Mante
06. The Beauty In Darkness feat. Lido Pimienta
07. Temporary External feat. Lido Pimienta
08. The Sound Stars Make
09. Attrition Exposed feat. Lido Pimienta
10. No Water
11. Mirror Image Opposite