I’ve been a massive fan of UK based electronic musician Sam Shepard (aka Floating Points) for years now, so when I heard he was releasing a new album, my immediate thought was, YES PLEASE. But nothing could prepare me for the album we received from him just last month.
Teaming up with legendary saxophonist Pharoah Sanders and the London Symphony Orchestra, Promises is an ambient album consisting of nine movements. While being very different from Shepard’s previous Floating Points album Crush, there are elements of Promises that can be heard in his debut Elaenia. Elaenia was a more pure electronic album, but his use of space and ambient tones in the mix have been brought to the forefront in this new album.
Sander’s sax meanders throughout the movements, providing stark, soulful contrast to Shepard’s central seven note motif. Our ears are treated to harpsichord, synthesizer and piano, which is repeated over the entire album. His notes could almost be considered as the ‘vocals’ for the album, expressing feeling and a sense of direction in the dreamlike mix.
The London Symphony Orchestra are beautifully positioned in the background, filling in the gaps between Sanders’ interjections and the electronic elements brought by Shepard. ‘Movement 6’ is their time to shine, fully showcasing Shepard’s composing skills with a beautifully worked and powerful build to a stunning crescendo.
Promises is a triumph from start to finish, and demands to be listened to in one sitting. Shepard, Saunders, and the Symphony Orchestra are all at the height of their powers. They created an album that’s designed to be experienced, rather than just listened too. I’m currently hunting down a vinyl copy of this album. This is the kind of work that demands to be owned, and it’s artwork held and appreciated as the music envelopes you and takes you under it’s spell.
I’ve linked the album below so you can give it a listen. While you’ll totally understand how good this album is through your headphones, I’d highly recommend playing this album in full, on a set of good, full size speakers.