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Shigeto – No Better Time Than Now

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GI-184_1500x300.jpgLabel: Ghostly InternationalScore: 8/10

No Better Than Now, the third album from Shigeto in as many years, is in many respects exactly what you might expect it to be. The Illinois native, who rose to prominence with a series of otherworldly  EPs on Ghostly International in early 2010, has long-established his own niche sound: IDM music that blends hip-hop influences and jazz practices with droning ambience. What’s more, whilst it usually takes artists a little while to arrive at their ‘sound’,  Shigeto’s unique audio-aesthetic has been there pretty much from the start. In fact, his is style is so recognisable that it’s nearly impossible to not know when you’re listening to his music. 

Unsurprisingly for such a consistent artist, album number three continues the trajectory of his previous work, further refining his musical range rather than opening it up or attempting newfangled approaches. The moody and slow-burning beatless opener First Saturn Return, with its cosmic jazz melody, eases the listener back into Shigeto’s signature territory with familiar assurance.  From therein out, it’s fifty minutes of recognisable downtempo electronica, underpinned with shimmering chimes, innovative drum patterns and gently bubbling basslines. 

Yet, that’s not to suggest that No Better Time Than Now is simply a re-treading of earlier works. Instead, the album offers a clear statement of progression from Shigeto’s previous achievements. Whilst Shigeto’s range hasn’t altered, the slightly rough-round-the-edges feel to his early work have been all but smoothed out for a sound which feels increasingly polished and dreamy. What’s more, the complexities and intricacies woven into each individual track on the album reveals a more mature and ambitious side to the producer. On cuts such as Perfect Crime and the stunning Detroit Part 1, new drum patterns and melodies are constantly emerging, each element re-shuffling the arrangement  into something new and unexpected. Yet it’s later, on the standout track Ritual Howl, that Shigeto really exhibits his ability as an audio-innovator, gently juxtaposing warm bells with steely industrial clicks, conjuring up images of frozen post-industrial landscapes in the listener’s mind.

However,  No Better Time Than Now is not without its disappointments. Whilst it would be unfair to criticise Shigeto for remaining within his comfort zone with the album, there are certain moments which point towards genuine new and exciting ground for the producer, but fail to be explored. The arrival of live drums and shimmering keys in the last 40 seconds of Perfect Crime tease towards a final act that isn’t there (you can only imagine how great it would have sounded if it had evolved into 8 or 9 minute jam.) Elsewhere, the opening bars of eponymous track No Better Time Than Now, with its drone synths and tinny live drums, tease a radical departure from the album’s dominant overtones, but are soon relegated to the background within Shigeto’s signature tropes of whirring synths and jazzy keys. These aren’t failures, so much as frustrating glimpses of exciting new musical domains left unexplored.  

Shigeto, I am positive, has a masterpiece of an album in him. And whilst this isn’t it, No Better Time Than Now is his best album to date. Whilst last year’s LP felt like a slender affair, this is a much more complete and weighty piece of work, rich and rewarding in its nuances and intricacies.  Like Boards Of Canada’s recent output, the complex magnitude of No Better Time Than Now transports the listener to a unique and haunted soundscape, wholly constructed and populated by one mind. And you can’t ask for much more than that.

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