Ghostly International Artist: Shigeto – ‘Full Circle’ LP Review

Over the summer, Shigeto performed at a Brooklyn warehouse party called Campfire, and watching people’s reactions was nearly as interesting as watching him perform. The beatsmith often allows his sounds freedom, giving them occasion to explore the boundaries of structure, and there’s frequently deep layers of activity. This can make for difficult listening, not to mention some trouble for a dancefloor more accustomed to techno and house. But the crowd, while cautious in their steps, was intent on figuring out what was going on with his music.

Since that event he’s dropped two EPs, and next week Ghostly releases his debut full length, Full Circle. The album – while significantly less off-kilter and more premeditated than live performances like the one just described – is still pretty challenging. About half of the tunes were written for the album, while the other half were older selections.

["Look At All The Smiling Faces" from Shigeto's debut full length, Full Circle.]

Lots of the producers in the beat scene are partial to jazz, Shigeto being no exception. “My entire melodic approach is incorporating jazz, or I’d like to think it is,” he explains. And like jazz, there’s usually a lot going on all at once that doesn’t match neatly up. It can get quite noisy and occasionally takes some effort to follow. But within those depths, there’s a lot to be discovered in the LP, and this exercise in listening is a rewarding one.

The album brims over with four years worth of field recordings from a Tascam mini-recorder that he carried along wherever his travels took him. The resulting glassy, crunchy, and washy effects create a pretty unusual sound palette. Sometimes they appear in elongated, atmospheric ways in lieu of synths, other times they’re used in melodic forms. They also show up as percussive elements. This use of recordings does contribute to the noisiness, since they can run in weird directions and seem a bit harder to control. But the feel of these unfamiliar sounds is a welcome one.

[The man himself.]

The Brooklyn-based producer makes it a point to sketch out new aural terrains, often with a personal meaning. But there’s still a number of sounds commonly associated with the genre he works within. The scene takes its cues from the likes of Flying Lotus, Jay Dee, and Prefuse 73, but also goes deeper back to the days of IDM. So you can expect the video game bleeps; anticipate bassy, sawtooth synths; and be on the look out for that jazzy instrumentation. Its all there, blended in with his university-length recordings, occasionally all crammed into one track. Shigeto manages to fit in such an overwhelming array that even when a track is lacking in melody, it will still cycle through a broad range of unique sounds, many of which are often hard to identify.

["Relentless Drag" from Shigeto's debut full length, Full Circle. (FREE DOWNLOAD)]

In terms of composition, the percussion is formidable, rarely resting before a new element is introduced. This makes sense, considering Shigeto has been a drummer since childhood and is currently touring with School of Seven Bells. And, I mean, it is beat music.

Some tracks, such as “Relentless Drag” and “Look At All The Smiling Faces”, are more immediate in their attractiveness and feature a gloss that shines even without close attention. But the effort it takes to absorb the rest may play against him in today’s media saturated, multi tasking world. Then again, Ghostly fans are likely up to the challenge. - MS

[A recent mixtape for Ghostly.]