Zach Saginaw follows up 2010's well-received Shigeto full-length Full Circle with the strong mini-album Lineage. The release brings a number of things into clear focus, the first of which involves the respect he clearly holds towards his past, musical and otherwise. The release's front cover, for example, displays a photo of his great-grandfather's house in Hiroshima, Japan, and Shigeto is not only Saginaw's moniker but also his middle name and his grandfather's name; the name choice can thus be seen as his way of paying tribute to the Japanese branch in his family tree.
That Saginaw also is aiming to be something more than a beats crafter is evident from the outset when “Lineage (Prologue)” eases the listener into the mini-album with a spacey array of fire crackle, electric piano, organ textures, and wind chimes. At the same time, the intro serves notice that beats are a key part of the Shigeto persona when a subtle kick drum rhythm joins the subdued fray a minute into the piece. The deeper plunge comes moments later, however, when the title track digs more determinedly into its percussion-heavy beat flow without sacrificing its early morning vibe, and sets the stage for the sparkling swoon of “Ann Arbor Part 3 & 4” and its shimmering Rhodes sprinkles and hip-hop swing. The recording is at its most uptempo during the ebullient “Field Trip,” which flows like the warmest of seaside breezes, and Lineage doesn't limp out the door either; instead, “Please Stay” takes us out on a entrancing wave of thumb piano plucks, claps, and funk rhythms so as to leave the listener with a strong melodic aftertaste.
Though the press release notes that Shigeto grew up influenced by Ghostly's early output, the material itself suggests that Saginaw might have more in common with Prefuse 73. It's “Soaring” that brings the connection into focus: in tracks such as this one, Shigeto sounds like a 2012 version of One Word Extinguisher-era Prefuse 73, if in a slightly less manic incarnation (not a bad thing). The two producers share a propensity for boom-bap but also a sensitivity to sonic colour, as the Shigeto track demonstrates in its arresting mix of harp swirls, handclaps, and beat swing. That connection becomes all the more apparent when “A Child's Mind” presents a considerably denser cocktail that's equal parts shuffling hip-hop and cosmic jazz. All told, it takes no more than a few listens to Lineage to realize that the Shigeto sound world extends far beyond a laptop's pre-sets. Acoustic drums, electric piano, and hand percussion all contribute to his warm, organic fusion of acoustic and synthetic sounds, and Saginaw draws as much upon space jazz as hip-hop in the eight cuts on this finely crafted mini-album.