|Eine Dunkle Wolke
|There Is A Seed
|The Dying Regime
|Es Fiel ein Reif
|Abend Wird Es Wieder
‘The Scandal of Time’ bookends a prolific period of experimentation for Sam Shackleton and follows a raft of collaborations (with Wacław Zimpel, Heather Leigh and Scotch Rolex this year alone) with what amounts to his first new solo album since 2021.
Shackleton’s been edging away from the dancefloor for about a decade now, exploring alternative tuning systems, modern classical sounds and non-Western rhythms. ‘The Scandal of Time’ works not just as a précis but a daring leap forward, mixing ghosted, traditional; German folk songs with heart-piercing basslines, xenharmonic percussion and open-ended drones, on what promises to be his last solo release for a while.
Anna Gerth recites a familiar 16th Century German folk song on ‘Eine Dunkle Wolke’, singing distinctly over lathery, lysergic electronics and skittering drums. When sub tones cut through the mix, they’re not there for heft, but to enhance the meditative richness of the composition. It’s almost trip-hop in an oblique way, not the kind of raked-over fluff that’s hovering into view again - but authentically psychedelic gear spiked with cracked mirror oddness of the earliest Mo’Wax deployments.
Shackleton freezes and granulates that momentum even during the album’s most vaporous moments; ‘There is a Seed’ and ‘The Dying Regime’ are knotty propositions, using vocals as uncanny whispers rather than hooks. On the former, disembodied words curl around rubbery hand drums and gummy electronic stings, and on the latter, Shackleton stretches words into choral chants, letting levitational South Asian rhythms cook slowly with thick bass and spine tingling folk hums.
When Gerth returns on ‘Es Fiel ein Reif’, she’s transported into the world of the romantic poets, reciting a 19th Century song-poem from German writer and folk song researcher Anton Wilhelm von Zuccalmaglio, who claimed that the lyrics were taken from early history. Here, Shackleton and Gerth dip in and out of sinuous surrealism with thumb piano, metallophone vortexes, ghost choirs and stirring claps. ‘Faraway Flowers’ follows, obscuring voices beneath echoed piano rolls and digitised rainfall, drawing us closer and closer to the album’s entrancing conclusion. ‘Abend Wird Es Wieder’ is a perfectly bizarre finale, an alluring haze of stoic vocals and fictile instrumentation that sounds cinematic without adhering to any rules.
The eerie, hauntological world Shackleton has created here is a testament to his years of work on experimental bass music’s fringes. He’s managed to shepherd us through so many disparate musical styles that have here been finally sutured into a single, startling vessel.