Shackleton is brilliant. If you don't agree then listen to the tracks below and then agree that you're wrong and I'm right.
This new piece is magnificent though, really. It recalls Coil, Throbbing Gristle type stuff, from time to time the sound of Shackleton's own earlier work, medieval sounding stuff and bizarrely put me in mind of musical theatre, some of the vocal work has a Sondheimesque quality to it, not so much in the content (though it could be lifted from some imaginary musical about pestilence, murder and plague) but in the delivery.
The whole piece has an orchestrated feel to it, yet is simultaneously self consciously synthetic. This 'digital orchestration' works almost better than I've ever heard, I'm struggling to think of a piece of 'orchestral' electronica where I've enjoyed the arrangement as much. More remarkable is the way the instrumentation really works - Synthesised violins sound like electronic instruments, choirs sound like sound effects but that's all good. I can't put my finger on why - I think it's the deliberate incongruity of the medium and the source material and how masterful the arrangement is.
This is music which in part could happily sit on Radio 3 yet has moments where you feel the hazy futurism and the beat swells in just the right way. It also has lengthy organ explorations which sit just the right side of irritating, being anchored by tight, fascinating percussion and the feeling that they are heading somewhere. Where though is another question. The record evokes medieval villages whilst at the same time evoking a mid future dystopia. It's a digital Wickerman in parts, tribal and ritualistic.
It's a shape-shifting force of a record, a magnificent example of having expectations defied and I'm struggling to think of a something released this year (ok, last year) which has sounded more intriguing and engaging through repeated listens. I like it precisely because it does things that leave me thinking, ' do I like this?'
It is for sale here