Shackleton with Ernesto Tomasini – Devotional Songs


[Reviewed by Peter Marks]

It is difficult to put into mere words the change Shackleton has undergone over the past years, the floor smashers he graced us with during the first part of his career are not to be found in what he does now. I suppose what made it clear to me he’d transformed was his ‘Music for the Quiet Hour’ series as the experimental side won out at last. He could probably still get people agitating in clubs if he wanted to but there’s an introspective core to his work now that cannot be put back in the bottle. Continual evolution is what many strive for and fail at by degrees but this one doesn’t waver nor does he cop out via celebrity remixes. This is an unfiltered album, an album meant to free one from the dreariness of daily life.

He chooses to make his arrangements sparse at times which allows Tomasini’s voice to carry the proceedings and carry them it does. Splendidly. With backgrounds borne from bells and vaguely eastern progressions Ernesto fashions melodies, verses and even choruses (of a sort) out of pure vapor. I’m impressed, to put it mildly by the architecture employed on “You are the One” as it starts in a very stately manner before merging into a purely psychedelic barrage of organ(?) notes that do not let up for the majority of the song. Believe you me, that tension which has continually made what S. Shackleton writes so menacing is very much present here; it has been placed lower in the mix than what I’m used to which makes it’s discovery all the more unnerving. He hasn’t abandoned his love of subtly altering the tone in his material, either.

Great care has been taken to introduce elements in such a way that mental imbalance nips at the stem of the brain continuously.

There’s also their take on a holiday classic which is re-named “Twelve Shared Addictions” wherein the pair of them up-root numerous traditions through cunning wordplay and deliriously frantic percussive jabs. They give us much to consider about the relation between tradition and terror; does the horror begin at home and while we’re on the topic let me also mention the haunting isolation Shackleton conjures up all throughout ‘Devotional Songs’. It is as though he’s decided on a ritualistic approach, one stripped of nearly all human emotion… the only constant to remind us of where we are would be the words E. Tomasini sings; what a voice, that’s all I’ll say.

Would I suggest this album to people who are long-time fans? Without question. Would I also suggest this for people looking to expand their musical frame of reference who don’t normally go in for electronic music? Definitely. This collection is normality completely abandoned. There are comparisons to be made, of course but I’m too busy listening to care; an aberrant exercise between two opposing disciplines of artistry which not only blends flawlessly but never once becomes tedious to soak up.

Shackleton with Ernesto Tomasini – Devotional Songs
Honest Jon’s Records, HJP081/HJP081CD
LP/CD 2016

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