Boomkat Product Review:
Prolific bass alchemist Sam Shackleton and Polish clarinetist/producer Wacław Zimpel team up with Hindustani classical vocalist Siddartha Belmannu on this breathtaking follow-up to 2020's 'Primal Forms'. High vibrational gear for advanced psychedelic explorers, this one's a fine addition to Shackleton's rapidly swelling canon - it's like ritual music assembled with the sensibility of Talk Talk, Zbigniew Preisner and Leaving Records' Arushi Jain.
Shackleton's had a pretty astonishing year already, if you've been paying attention. His last EP as The Purge of Tomorrow (Spring's 'The Other Side of Devastation') was a gorgeous, gamelan-led longform experiment, his full-length collab with DJ Scotch Egg 'Death By Tickling' was a chance for him to let loose with more dancefloor-focused material, and last month's collaboration with Heather Leigh as Flesh & The Dream is some of the most devastating gear we've heard from him in years. 'The Ocean Lies Between Us' again pairs him with hard-working Polish player Wacław Zimpel, whose pristine woodwind meshed with Shackleton's innovative bass explorations on 'Primal Forms' just a few years ago. Here they pick up where that album left off, adding transcendent voicework from Belmannu, who leads the 20-minute composition.
Shackleton starts us off with tender-but-stargazing metallophone hits, gently blending in pitch-fucked punctuations and watery echoes. Belmannu's raga pierces the psychedelic fog masterfully, warbling in the foreground before Zimpel's faint orchestral wisps add a melancholy narrative twist. Shackleton has approached Northern Indian classical forms before, but 'The Ocean Lies Between Us' is his most successful fusion. At this point in his evolution, the producer's expertise is implicit, he has little to prove and lets his sparse instrumentation take a relative back seat to his collaborator's chilling contributions. There's a constant rhythm, but it's gaseous and hazy, serving just to underpin Belmannu's powerful vocal performance and Zimpel's ghosted drones.
It would be hard to label the music as minimal, but there's not an element out of place. Like 'The Other Side of Devastation', 'The Ocean Lies Between Us' captures the blissful euphoria of Talk Talk's seminal 'Spirit of Eden', but diverts the energy in a different direction. The trio's use of raga forms, Eastern European and Baltic sacred music (think Arvo Part) and Indonesian traditional sounds isn't an arbitrary fusion, it connects emotions, histories and most importantly, people. It's deeply sensitive, transcendent material that we've had on repeat since it landed on our desks.