Floating Points

Crush

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Sam Shepherd's second Floating Points album is as distinct from Reflections: Mojave Desert as that live band-oriented 2017 EP is distinguishable from the painstaking 2015 LP Elaenia. The making of Crush was powered in part by the lasting creative energy Shepherd felt during a string of dates supporting the xx, for which he performed alone with only a modular synthesizer. Contrary to his intent, his sets were typified by a newfound level of dynamism and a lack of regard for merely easing early arrivers into the mood for the headliners. That approach is sensed through much of Crush. Shepherd created the overwhelming majority of it on his own, albeit with more than enough gear -- including his Rhodes Chroma, this time controlled with a customized tablet app -- to stage a 2019 equivalent to the photo on the back of Herbie Hancock's Sunlight. A live string ensemble (joined on the opener by woodwinds and brass) plays on four tracks, lending discrete shading for the most part while adding a sense of threat to "Anasickmodular," a scuffling flirtation with 'ardkore that abruptly terminates after a thrilling sequence of convulsions. Certain tracks made in solitude -- bracing techno charger "LesAlpx," jubilant Aphex Twin-style scrambler "Last Bloom," consecutive locomotive cut-outs "Bias" and "Environments" -- are similarly intense and rich in detail. The pared-down pieces not driven by synthesized percussion tend to sound just as instinctive, even generative at times, with sudden fluctuations in mood, from serene to violent. Crush certainly comes across as fragmentary, as if a dozen tracks, at least a couple albums worth of ideas, were truncated, quickly sequenced, and packed onto one LP. That said, it's hard to imagine more forethought and deliberation resulting in a listen more riveting than this one.

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