Shigeto: Taking a jazzman's approach, a post-Dilla acolyte builds on Michigan's beat legacy.
For a generation of bedroom producers, now is the time to get their due—at least according to beat-geek extraordinaire Zach Saginaw, who performs and records as Shigeto. "I think the need for an MC or the need for lyrics [is] not as dominant. It's not anything against that—it's just that finally producers are getting more credit," he says. "Ten years ago you'd say, 'Oh, I love this song,' but you never knew who produced it and no one ever really cared. But now producers are becoming their own thing and getting so much more credit."
That certainly seems to be the case for the Brooklyn-based Shigeto. Saginaw has got two EPs and a stunning full-length under his belt on Ghostly International, a fitting label to disseminate his densely layered, hip-hop-inspired electronic music, which sonically bears a close association with the LA school of beatmakers. "It's kind of a phenomenon, the beat scene," says Saginaw. "I think, in a lot of ways, the death of J Dilla influenced it. It was a tragic thing, but it kind of set off this invisible torch to other people, mainly being Flying Lotus. He took that torch and took it to the next level."
How the beat scene got to that level is collaborative and wide ranging; for Shigeto, it lies in his upbringing. He was raised in Dilla's native Michigan, a hotbed for forward-thinking music over the years. "[Growing up in Michigan] shaped me in every way, pretty much," he says. He grew up playing jazz drums and listening to Motown and hip-hop, but it wasn't until the start of Ghostly International in 1999 that Shigeto's eventual style began to really take form. "When I started hearing all the first releases from Ghostly, it kind of opened me up to more electronic stuff. I was [already] into classic Warp records—Boards of Canada, Aphex Twin, Squarepusher, and all that—but I guess when I heard Dabrye's One/Three, I was just blown away. I was like, 'I gotta get into this.'"
Saginaw has done much more than get into it. His debut full-length, Full Circle, is a cerebral voyage into a world of rich textures and elegant, punctuated rhythms. Parts hip-hop, jazz, and techno, the album takes these bits and turns them into a wildly cohesive work, and it's not by accident. "I think the one thing I had for Full Circle was the palette,"he says. "I knew that I had these certain sounds, or reoccurring themes, throughout the whole album. I think the sounds define an album. If you have the same palette underneath, it's going to be cohesive—it's going to sonically fit."
While the fit is tight, Shigeto doesn't plan to stop evolving musically. "I think one of my main goals is figuring out my new approach and having it be more human,"he says, adding, "I guess I want it to be a jazz approach with more spontaneity. But I haven't quite figured out how I want to do it."
Full Circle is out now on Ghostly International.
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