Primal Forms by Shackleton & Zimpel

British producer Sam Shackleton continues his evolution from dubstep intricacy to electronica and jazz with Primal Forms, a collaboration with Polish clarinetist Wacław Zimpel. The musicians’ backgrounds could hardly be more different, but the result is an album of three tracks of wonderful, trance-like instrumentals. 

Vinyl LP £17.99 CR012

LP on Cosmo Rhythmatic.

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Primal Forms by Shackleton & Zimpel
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7/10 Fred MG 05 August 2020

Shackleton has always been an idiosyncratic artist ever since his Wiccan takes on the dubstep lineage positioned him outside the mainstream of his bassweight contemporaries. However, recently his rhythms have shifted away from classic dance tropes more into something more organic and insistent, with tracks often built from chiming percussive pulses in a way that brings to mind Steve Reich’s ‘Music For 18 Musicians’. It’s a thrilling and original sound, enlivening while also slightly putting one on tenterhooks. However, one senses that it’s also an aesthetic Shackleton’s yet to fully get to grips with - particularly when his uneven voyages into the Fourth World produce some featherweight new-age drone.

‘Primal Forms’, Shackleton’s new collaboration with Polish wind player Wacław Zimpel - an artist recently spotted making hay alongside James Holden - displays both the virtues and faults of his new sound. At its best ‘Primal Forms’ veritably thrums with life, channeling dubwise music’s earthy spiritualism through the rhythmic fervour of NYC minimalism in a way which really fires the synapses. The seventeen-minute-long eponymous opener has this in spades, from the Sun-Ra-does-Massive-Attack etherisation of its opening phase to the shadow-realm dub-techno that carries it to its close, and the feeling is recaptured by the polyrhythmic marimba whirl that takes shape across closer ‘Ruined Future’.

However, the middle of ‘Primal Forms’ is lost to drift. ‘Primal Drones’, full of humming organs and shamanistic atmospherics, is a little too third-eye to hold your attention. About halfway through some innovative slip-sliding strings enter the fray, but not enough is done with these in the final five minutes to justify them being there. The aforementioned ‘Ruined Future’ may eventually come to life, but only after it’s spent several minutes faffing around, as if dealing with the hangover of its soporific predecessor.



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