After a few long playing collaborations on Honest Jons, Shackleton returns to the EP format and his own label Woe to the Septic Heart! with the double header Furnace of Guts / Wakefulness and Obsession. The concept driven collaborations that preceded this release with of Anika, Ernesto Tomasini, and Vengeance Tenfold, carries forward through this latest 12. Furnace of Guts / Wakefulness and Obsession maintains Sam Shackleton’s departure from the minimalist dance floor constructions of Skull Disco (which closed its doors in 2008) as he continues to pursue the ultimate margins of his craft. From the artwork, which sees Shackleton turn to his visual collaborator, Zeke Clough once again, to the music Furnace of Guts / Wakefulness and Obsession and its the presentation as 12” it’s is an immersive experience with an emphasis on a considered effort from the artist’s part.
Ever since the closure of Skull Disco, Shackleton’s music has veered further and further to the left. He’s staked a claim in the avant garde of electronic music today, as he continually dismantles and re-assembles common music tropes. Shackleton’s music today thrives on some kind of incongruity between the progressive approach of Krautwork and modern electronic processes. His rise through the echelons of the music lexicon to get to this point starts at the gestation of Dubstep in the UK. He instantly found a synchronicity with this futurist music and its scene. Alongside the likes of Appleblim and Pinch he seemed to find a specific sound within the scene, one with a darker edge, and an experimentalist attitude at its core.
Like all the other artists that would eventually go on to make impressions in music beyond Dubstep, the genre’s limiting factors were too restrictive to contain Shackleton’s versatility as an artist and he too incorporated elements from other styles and genres in his music. Through his Skull Disco imprint he would arrive at a sounds that combined the unknown limits of electronic music with a kind of organic sound palette. Hand percussion lived alongside deep, bulbous synthesised sounds through records that really were unique, and pugnaciously defied musical tropes across the board; an attitude perhaps distilled from Sam Shackleton’s early musical development through punk music.
While the music through Skull Disco could be framed within the club context, it was clear that even that quite extensive declination could hardly contain the expansive vision on the artist, and releases following on Honest Jons and Shakleton’s own, Woe to the Septic Heart! imprint found the producer continually breaking new ground. Furnace of the Guts / Wakefulness and Obsession is the latest incarnation of this, and while the LPs that came before it, had very little in terms of repetition, the two tracks contained within still abides to the loop based arrangements of Shackleton’s earlier works. These are fleeting encounters with anything considered “club: music as throughout the two tracks, development is key.
Furnace of the Guts strips everything down to percussion and atmosphere. Melodic percussion coaxed from synthesised marimba induces a trance as it repeats into infinity. Sparse noise and new rhythmic arrangements building through the track creates an intense progression through 10 minutes of music on the A-side. You’re on the edge of your sanity as it eventually drifts off into the eerie (perhaps even comical) vocal sample that introduced the track.
For Wakefulness and Obsession, Shackleton favours a more reserved approach, but with strikingly similar effects. Monastic chants and synthesizers reaching down to some mystic depth through inharmonic glissando, strike a gloomy chord as it traces a drunken path through a miasma of noise. It’s a track of two halves as the tempered orchestration eventually falls away into irreverent drumming, and an ominous glow appears at the outer edges of the arrangement. It’s something like Jodorowsky’s Holy Mountain in sound.
Furnace of Guts / Wakefulness and Obsession is music that borders somewhere between the surreal, the mystical, the fantastical and the tangible. Distilling all these elements through his distinctive musical dialect, Sam Shackleton yet again astounds the listener with something completely unique.