Shackleton- Departing Like Rivers
Pigeonholing the sort of music that elusive English producer Shackleton creates toward any sort of categorisation is likely a futile exercise. While the Woe to the Septic Heart! founder’s early work slips neatly into the breaks and bass cannon, it’s his later offerings that are more difficult to pinpoint. His sound evolved to show greater, worldly influences; the chanted mantras of India, the tribal drumming of Africa. amongst other increasingly nondescript sounds fused to form his dark psychedelia. Equal parts Perturbator gloom and Burial abstractionism, works like Wakefulness and Obsession or the Zimpel collaboration Primal Forms leaned into rudimentary percussive elements and a deft shamanism. His latest album and first solo project in nearly a decade, Departing Like Rivers, is in his own words, “not a ‘concept album’… I just wanted to focus on my core sound really but without any of the genre tropes that may have been present the last time I made a solo album.”
A renewed focus on those ‘core sounds’ means that Departing Like Rivers runs through the signatures of Shackleton’s transmutable sonic persona, reconciling the parts to open a portal into his trippy multiverse. It’s a world that Shackleton has built by meshing, or rather melting, the organic with the electronic. Here, vocal clips of English folk songs are chopped and reformed into new alien dialects, both familiar and beyond recognition. Something Tells Me / Pour Out Like Water pulls us into an extraterrestrial faerie circle of pounding organic drums before slowly unravelling into a trance-like, distorted chants, immediately opening the gates into Shackleton’s netherworld.
Fusing twinkling chimes, shamisen like strings and whirling alien drones on tracks like The Light That Was Hidden and the way Shackleton creates an ambiguous language from samples gives the entire experience a sort of primordial spiritualism. Often, there is a distinct ritualism that he conjures, giving credence to those who may regard this music as “trance.” Transformed Into Love, the longest outing on the album, is also the passage to its conclusion. It’s a slithering, strangely sensual spectre that writhes through layers of bratty vocal cuts and pulsating drum throbs. Brassy cymbals and simmering synths add to the ooze, until the track builds into a polyrhythmic climax. It’s one of the album’s strongest, most immersive moments. As its closing statement, it leaves you feeling as if you’ve just come out the other end of a wormhole. Departing Like Rivers, for the most part, is an album designed to transport to space. Its pagan poetry suggests visions of an ancient or alien civilisation, a strikingly vivid world that feels more visceral as the album progresses. Simply put, its epic, a fantasy or science fiction novella written in sound, told by way of the bizarre and unique creative prowess of its progenitor.
Listen to Transformed Into Love from Departing Like Rivers below.