Where Skull Disco garnered cult status as a haven for dubstep fans with more experimentally-inclined tastes, Rob Ellis has been driving his Tectonic machine and Pinch work down a slightly more obvious route. Nevertheless, both empires have been cut from the same dubby, minimalistic cloth and—genre now fully aside—that's what cloaks their not-quite-so startling, albeit not exactly even union. Though Pinch & Shackleton indeed uses the latter's patois of muted subs, resonant vocals and tribally percussion, the message is as much Pinch. (The unadulterated bassline and pan pipe melody of "Burning Blood" are probably the Pinchiest offering here for those playing at home.)
If comparisons are to be made, Modern Love and notably the output of Miles Whittaker and Sean Canty as Demdike Stare provide fair plumbs, however Pinch & Shackleton is altogether more shaman than witchy, channelling the spirits to heal and soothe without curse or revile. There is too much space billowing through the album to make it feel oppressive, while its apocalyptic nerve, vocalised and most prominent in "Selfish Greedy Life," is kept pacified by a gentle, unhurried cadence throughout. Percussive splay and mutative composition are the album's two greatest merits and maintain the momentum even in its most reductive moments like on "Torn and Submerged" as it decomposes almost entirely into solitary drum and cymbal hits.
It is difficult to pick any more jewels off this dance floor diadem, making the most as it does of the long player context, but to conclude on "Jellybones" and "Levitation" best exemplifies not just this record's sense of narrative but dexterity as well. In these two fixtures we have one of the straightest dance tracks imaginable from Shackleton, and one of the LP's most experimental. "Levitation" begins closer to an avant-garde work of sound art before bongos rhythmically piece it together. Passing through swirling electronic dissonance occupied by a single peeping hat, in the final few minutes we emerge in choral-soaked ambiance, confused and fascinated in equal measure.
Pinch & Shackleton or Shackleton with Pinch. Semantics shouldn't cloud the credit due to an electronic visionary and revered craftsman coming together—in whatever formula—to just make dance music, as in music to make you dance. Whichever way you chose to dress it. Superb.