Judging a book by its cover can be a wonderful thing. In this case you would be hard pushed not to be drawn in by the rich colours adorning Crush, the latest on Sam Shepherd’s journey as Floating Points. This cover, in hundreds of shades of blue with more besides, is a close-up view of an oil-tinged bubble that could also pass for a cloud formation on one of the Solar System’s outer gas giants. If the music is even half as colourful the listener is clearly in for a treat.
Thankfully Shepherd’s music delivers on that score, with enough electrical activity in his more hyperactive workings to power a small town. This is music of concentrated intensity, its peaks delivering several motifs and beat structures at once, reflecting its creator’s active mind. Yet there are softer, reflective moments to balance the intensity, and these work together to make an album of impressive depth and coherent structure.
The flurry of notes and colours as Falaise gets worked up at the start suggest Shepherd has been spending time with the works of Ravel. Swirling textures are topped by flute, harp and strings that bring a succession of strong parallels to the composer’s Introduction and Allegro, for the same instrumental combination.
It is a beautiful rush of sound, and acts as an effective prelude to Last Bloom, which weighs anchor at the other end of the aural spectrum with a garage beat, twinkling electronics glinting occasionally up top. Bias also heads in this direction but with a slower background bass and long-breathed melody, which if anything creates a greater sense of speed. It cuts off swiftly, hurtling unexpectedly over the edge of a cliff, but is cushioned by the parachute that Environments effectively represents. This too gets busy with congested rhythms, reminiscent of Aphex Twin.
Of Shepherd’s other colourful inventions, Anasickmodular pans out, a sumptuous wave of music over the glitches and sparks. Requiem for CS70 and Strings takes a well-judged breather, a reflective and rather sad track which is beautifully scored. Karakul is effectively an upbeat to LesAlpx, which cuts loose in some rabid four to the floor action.
Lest the rhythms get too complicated and headache-inducing, there is time for reflection in Birth and Sea-Watch, where contemplation and wonder are the order of the day. These effectively form a quartet of tracks with parts 1 and 2 of Apoptose, the beats running backwards and forwards like busy worker ants.
From all this you will gather Crush is a fascinating album, one that reveals more of its treasures with each listen. Shepherd’s work may be hyperactive at times, and is a dizzying listen when the chord progressions and rhythmic flights of fancy become congested, but it is an exhilarating ride that proves every bit as enticing as its cover.