Following the half-decade work that has been released under the guise of Sam Shepherd's Floating Points, it's interesting that the coy and ethereal Elaenia was his debut album. It is a teasingly dream-like post-rave affair, one of which is absolutely beautiful to behold, but not necessarily a debut album you expect from someone who has been releasing music for the better half of five years and within that time holding a residency at the now missed Plastic People in London.
There was a nervous anticipation in seeing Floating Points live, assembling a small scale orchestra to illustrate the lustrous compositions of his music, most notably his long awaited debut album Elaneia released late 2015. Where on record it feels restrained and at points the details are almost hidden and demand up most attention to be revealed, his live set up demonstrated a sense of grandeur and wonder that builds around his minimal piano and electronic chords creating something quite sensational. The atmosphere felt like that of hushed mutterings and curiosity of how it might work, however while waiting the image of a sensory experience definitely came into mind considering the ambience that was established just before the band took to the stage. Incense stretched from every corner of every instrument and microphone, whisking into the air a soothing smell that also fogged the room. It was calming, and that was interpreted by a complying crowd which understood the nature of the performance they were about to experience.
Shepherd found himself huddled front-right on stage encompassed by his synths, while mirrored on the front-left by his drummer, where behind they were towered by a small brass section on the left and a strings section on the right. The centre of the stage was held by a guitarist and bassist, a symmetry which appeared to mirror not only the perfectionist nature of Floating Points' sound, but complimented hugely by an understated yet beautiful light show. The simplistic yet incredibly effective light show and stage set-up, consisting of lasers hitting parts of a lunar backdrop and within said space forming geometric patterns and spirographs fitted wonderfully with the gradual and expansive nature of the music was craftsmanship at its most loving.
Opening with the 11-minute 3-parter 'Silhouettes', there was an instant understanding of why a small-scale orchestral backdrop worked both conceptually and practically for the live show. It demonstrated the visceral textures and the spectacle that classical music has while being guided by an incredibly modern, electronic undertow. From that point on a true appreciation was received from a truly grateful audience, one of admiration and delight which seemed to genuinely touch the performers.
The most important aspect of Floating Points' live show is that the warm fluidity of his music is still present, which is the focal aspect of the beauty that comes out of his music. However, the inclusion of a live band gives it a stronger sense of humanity, a tactile beauty which couldn't always be heard on the album. The influences and nods to Radiohead's Kid A and the work of Boards of Canada seem clearer in this setting, and they're lovely to behold. However, one of the ways this seems to translate is the surprising flirtation his performance had with a prog-rock show, there were moments where Floating Points could be likened to that of Mogwai or Explosions in the Sky. An unexpected treat which showed that not only the improvisational nature of interluding between tracks illustrated a talented live group, but that the translation of his music from record to stage could stretched and manipulated for a more visceral response.
Like the best of Floating Points' work, which when it reaches its heights is absolutely mesmerising. The exact same can be same about his live set-up. It is lovingly crafted, patient in its approach and a soothing experience which is utterly entrancing.
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