Opener "(No More) Negative Thoughts" sets the tone. Comprised of little more than brushed bass, glowing keys and a muted male voice, it's about as minimal a piece of "dubstep" as you're ever likely to hear, and—barring a seismic revolution in taste—appropriate for only the hardiest of dancefloors. Likewise with "It's Time for Love" (the sound of Scott Walker and Stefan Betke sharing a spliff over Ableton Live), "Moon Over Joseph's Burial" (a vampiric amalgamation of pitch-bent drones and Hell-bent chants) and the frighteningly ethereal "Trembling Leaf," which features the kind of hyper-petrified vocal garblings not heard since you know who's revolting remix of DJ Maxximus's "Neo" back in March. Did I say it was dark?
Of course, there are—ahem—"big" tunes, and traces of Shackleton's early, often savage flirtations with the musical rubric of the East (both Middle and Far) can be heard throughout. "Let Go" features rumbling toms, squashed horns and the sort of restless, tail-chasing bassline that made nascent offerings "Hamas Rule" and "I Am Animal" so arresting, whilst "Mountains of Ashes"—scariest title of the year anyone?—makes a B-line for the subcontinent with chiming tabla flecks and rolling, Goa-friendy bass. Meanwhile, "Asha in the Tabernacle," whose mantric credo "Sense it, know it, let it be-be-be…" reverberates incessantly, whips up a Brahmanic storm with lavic subs and pummelling kicks that arrive well over three minutes into the track by way of a pleasingly unheralded drop. But in reality, none of this comes close to what most would regard as club-friendly fare. Far from it.
The starkest example of Shackleton's contrarian instinct comes in the form of the impossibly dark "Something Has Got to Give," which closes out the LP in stunningly morose fashion. Built out of only the sparest of elements, it's all-pervading blackness threatens to engulf what precedes it, but is held in check—just—by a skeletal trace of rhythm that trickles through it like ghostly DNA. It's a gloomy conclusion to a gloomy record, but also an exhilarating one which, in chronicling the journey of a maverick producer pressing yet deeper into who knows where, is worthy of the highest praise.