The Spirit of the Desert
Sam Shepherd’s new Floating Points project is part film, part soundtrack. Inspired by the sounds of the Mojave Desert, Reflections is an incredibly atmospheric project. One can hear slight touches that echo the beauty and emptiness of the desert on every track. The film component is a collaboration between Floating Points and director Anna Diaz Ortuño. This type of project is a perfect fit for Shepherd’s particular brand of intricate electronic composition.
The first track, “Mojave Desert,” starts out sparse with mostly white noise. It’s a slow opening, but it sets the stage for the desert theme that runs through the veins of the whole album. “Silurian Blue” is where the real meat of the project starts to show. The guitar and drum work on this song are top notch. It’s moody and intense, yet relaxing. It mirrors the storms and winds that create the ever-changing landscape of a desert like the Mojave. This song flows into “Kites,” which is much more obviously an electronic track, with the absence of the heavy guitars and drums from the previous track. “Kites” is full of synths that echo and hover in the air like sounds that get caught in the rocks and mountains of the desert. Shepherd’s project is so interesting because every song provides an opportunity to think about what sounds from the desert he is trying to emulate.
“Kelso Dunes” is a lengthy, nearly 13-minute track, but that long runtime allows the song to evolve and progress in a really nice way. It is definitely the climax in the project’s buildup. The way that the intensity rises amid a mixture of synths and guitars shows that Floating Points’ signature style and full band mesh very well with this film-inspired subject material. Shepherd became so interested in the landscape that the Mojave presents that he had to create something inspired by and made within it.
The project certainly has great moments, but there are also areas where it is lacking. “Mojave Desert” and “Lucerne Valley” don’t have much substance to them when listened to without the context of the film and, in a project that’s only about 30 minutes long, it’s certainly noticeable. “Mojave Desert” features natural, serene sounds straight from the desert, which add to the central theme of the project. However, since over half of the song is empty, it gives the album a noticeably slow start. “Kites” serves as a great transition into “Kelso Dunes,” but, aside from that, it is also a bit sparse. The rest of the project is great, but don’t come to it expecting a breadth of new material to comb through. If you like Floating Points, though, and are in the mood for a few fresh cuts from Sam Shepherd and his ensemble, then this will definitely interest you.