London’s James Shaw has been peddling his minimal techno wares on Hotflush for a while now, releasing ambient cuts for the label as Sigha since 2009. It’s a logical union, one that’s given Shaw a base for his own recordings, as well as allowing him to produce some deft remix work for others (most memorably a toned down, genre-hopping reworking of Commix’s ‘Emily’s Smile’ for Metalheadz). Back together with Hotflush for the New Year however, Shaw delivers a devastating addition to his already impressive cannon.
The optimistic air of opener ‘Something in Between Us’ aside, ‘Abstractions I–IV’ is dark, brooding, occasionally menacing and always ominous, the frozen lake cover art as applicable as Shaw’s chosen stage name. This is minimal taken to its extremes.
‘Where I Come To Forget’ builds in imperceptible measures; its peaks disorientating like the first few seconds of consciousness, its quieter moments full of bubbling kicks and echoing blips. It’s no surprise this cut made it onto Berghain regular Scuba’s edition of the DJ-Kicks compilation series. ‘How To Disappear’ nods in the direction of Berlin minimal, its mechanical loops inching the listener closer and closer to hypnosis as they develop. Claps and breaths reverberate through imperious warehouses, as the heavy focus on rhythm over melody begins to mutate into the catchiest of hooks itself.
Closer ‘Drown’ is the darkest moment of a dark collection; its huge caverns of sound acting as a bed for rattling percussion and sonar-like beeps as the musical onomatopoeia of its oppressive title plays out over its seven minutes. As the track drifts out, it’s a good few moments before reality sets back in; an untouched cup of tea illuminated in the cold glare of the computer screen and an unsettling feeling of uncertainty as to what happened in the previous half hour…
With the ever-rising bar of quality in electronica today, producers must be constantly on their game to keep up. This comes more naturally to some than others – Shaw firmly asserting himself in the former camp with Abstractions I – IV.
‘Abstractions I–IV’ will be released via Hotflush Recordings on February 20.