Floating Points, aka Sam Shepherd, returns with a tightly crafted EP that sounds like the logical continuation to 2015’s fantastic Elaenia. Kuiper EP chronicles his development from house producer to live composer as he hones in on his vision of sprawling jazzy compositions. For such a diverse producer, this type of continued focus may actually come as the biggest surprise.
Title track ‘Kuiper’ begins with a hauntingly tense ambient build-up that sounds like a train departing some futuristic space station. Subdued taps of white noise and a dull thud of sub bass pitter-patter along as the synths swell up in the background and some proggy guitar creeps in. Then, around the 6 minute mark, things are shot into overdrive – the drums pick up steam, a subterranean swell of bass rises to the surface as layer upon layer of fuzz is sprinkled on top, and everything spirals chaotically to the skies in some sort of krautrock space opera. Just as you think this cacophony of spacey electro-jazz reaches its peak, it all unfolds to allow the drummer (who’s still going mental at this point – amazing to think this is live instrumentation) to throw in a cascade of cymbals that battle it out with the bass, before picking up steam again with even more aggression. Segue into a psychedelic Pink Floyd-ian breakdown, layer in some subtle string arrangements for that extra sense of grandeur, and the 18 minute journey of ‘Kuiper’ is brought to a close. The only deflating factor is that these grand, chaotic crescendos are starting to feel like regular territory for Shepherd at this point.
If ‘Kuiper’ is an anxiety-ridden soaring journey through space, then B-side ‘For Marmish Part II’ (named after the similarly subdued respite of gorgeousness from Elaenia) is the slow descent back to earth. A complete contrast to ‘Kuiper,’ it is slow, meditative, almost ambient in its quietude, but still just as beautiful. Vangelis-esque synth runs and playfully undulating piano arrangements play off each other and lend what would otherwise be an expansively sparse track just enough nuance to stop it from losing interest, despite the 14 minute run time. Sam Shepherd blurs the line between jazz improvisation and meticulous sequencing – you never really know what’s live instrumentation and what has been carefully crafted over several months – and it’s tracks like this that best demonstrate this fusion of forms.
At 2 tracks and 32 minutes long, the Kuiper EP is more focused, more singular in its approach than Elaenia, and functions as a sort of snapshot and continuation of that album’s greatest (if perhaps well-trodden by now) moments.
Kuiper is available now via Pluto.