Shigeto: Full Circle
Ghostly International / Moodgadget

Zach Shigeto Saginaw spent four years preparing Full Circle, his first full-length Shigeto album and follow-up to two Ghostly International EPs, Semi-Circle and What We Held On To. What did the preparation involve? For starters, four years spent collecting field recordings using a Tascam mini-recorder to capture sounds of glasses, chains, singing monks, friends' musical efforts, and the like, with the finished product a blinding mind-melt and beat-based take on instrumental hip-hop. Saginaw brings a rich background to the project: leading up to it, he studied jazz for three years at the New School in NYC and then three more in London where he dedicated himself to learning electronic production. Relocating to Brooklyn, Saginaw became involved in the Shigeto and A Setting Sun projects and produced remixes for Praveen & Benoit, Tycho, Mux Mool, Beautiful Bells, and Shlohmo, among others.

The album's beat-centric tone is set from its first moments when “Ann Arbor Part 1” (an homage to Saginaw's hometown) locks into place with a slinky boom-bap swagger and dazed synth attack. Buckshot snares, crisp hi-hats, and pumping kick drums power a tune that's equal parts amorphous and clangorous (the later “Ann Arbor Part 2” gets a boost from a sample cameo of Detroit MC SelfSays). The video arcade-strafed “Escape From the Incubator” writhes and squiggles like a lost relic from the early-IDM era mangled by found sounds and bleep-hop squelch. “So So Lovely” transmutes sampled noises into downtempo funk-hop and sprinkles the results with synthesizer spice. Time slows down for “Relentless Drag,” whose druggy, slow-mo shudder and drag Saginaw spikes with a wiry guitar(?) motif. The album exits on what starts out as a somewhat languorous tip in “Look at All the Smiling Faces”  with a dreamy tenor sax helping to pull the blinds down low before rambunction kicks in to take us out. While the album has peak moments, such as “Sky of the Revolution,” a gloriously radiant sampling of bleep-hop, it ain't all perfect. At the center of the whirlwind that is “Brown Eyed Girl” lies a bumping drum attack that at times threatens to splinter into shards, and “Children at Midnight,” a mash-up of acoustic jazz and hip-hop, is less fluid than the other tracks and ultimately less convincing. What recommends Full Circle most of all is the fecundity of Saginaw's imagination. Though the material does at times sound as if it's about to burst at its seams, the album nevertheless impresses as a marvel of found sound resourcefulness and creativity.

December 2010