Floating Points' unlikely reconfiguration of dance music
I exaggerate my prescience here, though, because Shepherd far exceeded whatever I could muster in anticipation. His first proper release was a seven-inch record that debuted Eglo Records, which he co-founded with Alexander Nut in London. The single's two tracks stem from the disorienting free jazz belonging to another incessant breaker of rules, Sun Ra. "Radiality" warps Ra's "Lanquidity" into a plosive shattering of synthetic rhythms and melodies. The way the groove lobs in time is a bit like the floating I mentioned earlier — there we are, languishing warmly in rhythm.
A couple EPs, a number of singles, remixes, and collaborations followed. On Vacuum, Shepherd shows that he can just as well make a no frills house groove. Subtle narrative arcs made up of punchy bass lines and sticky keys invite you to surrender willingly to the beat. Shadows is a bit more experimental. The extended compositions are fractured: bass lines disappear into quiet piano solos, chords dissolve into pulses spiraling in concentric circles around themselves. From these shallow swirls of sound arise huge swells of energy, only to dissipate once again.
Some of Shepherd's most magnetic music, though, features fellow Eglo signee Fatima on vocals. She not only sings wonderfully with the Floating Points Ensemble, but has also done significant work of her own with Shepherd on production. What sticks with me most is last year's Follow You EP, a subtle and lovely take on the intoxicating inner visions that music can conjure.
It turns out Floating Points is a classically trained musician, who only moonlights on analog drum machines and synthesizers. A great deal of his waking hours are otherwise devoted to pursuing a Ph.D in neuroscience. I assume that's why it's taken Shepherd this long to touch down in San Francisco for a live performance. And thanks to the curatorial teamwork between DJ Dials and Noise Pop's Dawson Ludwig, he'll join the eclectic bill for the upcoming Scene Unseen event.
Set among other headliners — including both the extravagant rapper, Riff Raff (who will be played by none other than James Franco in an upcoming film directed by Harmony Korine), and the showy Chicago duo, Flosstradamus — I'm not sure what to expect. Add to that set list two experimental beatsmiths from LA, Dibiase and Groundislava, as well as locals Ghost on Tape and the DJ crew KM / FM, among others, then you've pretty much run the risk of nullifying any categorical expectation. It's really quite a gamble. Then again, that's the liminal space in which Floating Points has thrived, and in which tomorrow's music has always thrown its dice.
With Riff Raff, Flosstradamus, and others
Fri/17, 10pm, free with RSVP
1015 Folsom, SF