UK electronic producer Shackleton’s latest collaboration, since his 2019 three-piece band Tunes of Negation, which offered long form cult like psychedelia is a duo with Polish woodwind player Waclaw Zimpel.
Zimpel is incredibly adept at working alongside unique electronics, best evidenced by his Long Weekend duo earlier this year with James Holden in which they improvised one track per day across said weekend. Zimpel also works with a group of Bangalore musicians in the fusion ensemble Saagara, so he’s pretty adept and finding and developing form in alien environments.
Both artists are pretty interested in ritual, trance and moments of ecstatic transcendence, but they don’t approach this goal in obvious ways. These three long-form pieces feel like they began life as improvisations that they then overdubbed and mixed, so now it sounds perfectly, albeit strangely, composed. Shackleton programs in his marimba’s rusty hi hats and electronic drones, while Zimpel creates layered drones, gentle little runs and chaotic squawks that always seem to make sense. He uses (gasp) real in the room instrumentation, alto clarinet, violin, harmonium, e-piano, organ, frame drum, percussions, lira, and monochord. You’d call it man vs machine, but there is no versus as the duo use dynamics and layers of sound incredibly well, working together to make the whole more than the sum of its parts.
This is 21st century jazz, or perhaps post trance music, where the human imprecision of the instruments are sculpted and treated, yet can never sound like they came from inside the box so they lend a legitimacy to the work, like we’re listening to an exotic futuristic world music. That’s probably a very long way to say there are lots of influences swirling around this album. But if you know either artist none of these will be particularly shocking or unexpected. They wear their hearts on their sleeves.
It’s quite masterful, there is nothing quite like it. It doesn’t matter how many times you listen to it you will never quite hear it as Primal Forms is experiential music designed to help you drift away, it taps into something deep within you and then sends you off into space.