17 October 2015

Shape Worship - A City Remembrancer

Man, this is good.

Really good.

I've been offline / limits / thick with flu & driving lesson woes for what seems to be ages but I've finally got around to listening properly to this Shape Worship album (another in the ever-predictable - in that every release is going to be great - line of outsider-chic that is Front And Follow) and it's a little bit immense. This is what I thought Burial was going to sound like when I'd read about them but not yet heard anything. I like Burial, but this is better; this feels less mannered, lighter but paradoxically more intense, less rooted in the (rather obvious) slow-car-garage trails.

This isn't just a car drive. This is a slice of collective consciousness. The cranes are flying.

It is extraordinarily confident in its approach, taking on Burial's shuffling gun-cock / ratchet drums (hopefully without the mythology that they were just created in Audacity) and sending them into new territories, deep in the heart of Britain. It's not all like this (it's better than that), of course but still... each cymbal hisses like a winter yawn. This is Britain not submerged but hanging on a thread; socio-political agitations, key council estate worries, local government politics.

I've not read much about this release because I wanted it to wash over me without contamination (of perhaps the terrible truth) but it's clear that every squeak and every whistle and every hummingly slurred vocal (although many of the samples are clear as day) has a very definite purpose and a place: when the light breaks out at the end of Heygate Palimpsest, for instance, it feels like we've been waiting a long time... like when they finally do put in that zebra crossing that everyone's been asking for... other bits sound like the tiniest snatches of vocal behind and within some of The Shamen's best techno squiggles, pre-C. That sense of delirium can certainly be found in tracks like Zoned (Hecate) which has a tinkling, endless, post-acid comedown vibe to it that is just perfect.

And then the voices come in and make the world real again. Some of them hum with static, with echo but other times they are naked and alone

Although this is some kind of master work and is clearly (I hope, I think) following a concept, it also seems small scale and intimate - cocktail synths, even, at the start of the gently stirring An Exemplar. And the scale works perfectly for the kind of psychogeographical details attended to here. This is a boiling down of issues and virtues; it has a sense of place that has often been neglected in music (replaced with sense of feeling or atmosphere) but not in the sense of windswept moors or smoked bracken (ha!) or goat-noises; instead Ed's attempted to approximate the place as a political satellite, as microcosm.

Easily one of the best things I've heard all year...

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