Sam Shepherd has ensured that critically reviewing his records these days has lost some of its value. Since his Floating Points alias broke back in 2009 he’s barely hit a dud note, getting lapped up by all variety of consumers. It’s been an assured, unfaltering stream of creativity, yet one with plenty of twists and turns. It seems that his confidence has augmented with every release, taking with it a preparedness to dive into divergent styles and approaches, giving the whole thing an unpredictable edge (and keeping us reviewers coming back).
Late last year, Elaenia, his first full-length, made it to the masses. Drawing on his classical roots, it drifted away from his house and electronic persona, toward superbly warm, intricate compositions based around instrumental sessions; of course, amongst all the jazz and downbeat references, his first attempt at the new sound felt entirely natural. Kuiper is that album’s timely follow-up—a two-tracker made up of some of Shepherd’s lengthiest jams yet (with a title track just shy of the 20 minute mark).
The EP is a tale of two sides. Picking up where the album track of the same name left off, “For Marmish Part II” is a gentle trip, constructed around a simple piano riff that fades in and out of accompanying collected sounds. Cymbals rustle, a choral whisper descends, or a cheeky synth appears. Without much real development, it avoids becoming tedious through his masterful arrangement. There’s no rush, no hurry: you could probably listen to it on loop for hours without even realizing, drifting away with every glistening key.
On the other hand, “Kuiper” is so much fuller: Shepherd leads his current live band in a fretful journey through post-rock crescendos—lofty, unavoidable peaks—and much-needed lows. The drum kit is given a real hammering, while a trance-inducing bass adds to the proggy feel; around the mid-section of the track, the noisy development eventually threatens to become too much. The real beauty lies in the quieter moments, though they are few and far between the boisterous ones—a far cry from the minimalist flip-side.
All in all, the full 30 minutes of Kuiper seems logical as a comfortable extension of, and compromise between, Shepherd's recent discography: as he continues to unravel the additional possibilities of live instrumentalism, we can be sure to expect plenty more of the same.
Kuiper is out now. Purchase it here.