Polyrhythmic? Unclassifiable? Full of supernatural themes? Sounds like a typically excellent LP by Shackleton and his ensemble.
Reach The Endless Sea, an ensemble work under the name Tunes Of Negation, pushes out even further. It is melodically richer and more dazzling than anything else in Shackleton's vast discography. This sonic shift has been accompanied increasingly by metaphysical considerations. "And the whole wide world must go to the dogs before we find our way," sang Ernesto Tomasini on 2016's Devotional Songs. Its follow-up, Sferic Ghost Transmits, contained similarly supernatural lyrics from the spoken word artist Vengeance Tenfold. ("We made a world and then we taught all mankind with pen," went one line.) Shackleton's swirling drum patterns and slippery textures gave these words an even greater heft, as if they were ethnographic recordings of ancient ceremonies.
Reach The Endless Sea's title is inspired by a 13th-century poem by the mystic Jalalu'l-Din Rumi. The album reunites Shackleton with keyboardist Takumi Motokawa and vibraphonist Raphael Meinhart—both of whom played on Devotional Songs—while welcoming vocalist Heather Leigh into the ensemble. Befitting such arcane inspiration, the quartet's sound is all ritualistic bells and snaking percussion, which feels timeless in the most disorienting sense. Shackleton's drums are the loosest they've ever been, while Leigh's ethereal vocals imbue the labyrinth-like compositions with yet more otherworldy properties.
The group's sprawling sound unfurls gracefully, often within a single track. "The World Is A Stage / Reach The Endless Sea" starts with misty atmospherics until winding harmonium and circling mallets break the mood alongside Leigh's dramatic vocals. "Wait for rebirth of the soul," she sings, her inquiries into life and death finding kinship with the themes that now grip Shackleton's music. There are moments of delicate beauty, too. "Tundra Erotic" ends with the gentle pitter-patter of what sounds like kalimba and bursts of organ, as refreshing as the spray of a cresting wave. "The Time Has Come," the final track, is arguably the LP's darkest, slowly building into a synthesised wall of noise.
Reach The Endless Sea's expansive track lengths are well suited to notions of deep spirituality. The idea of infinite horizons crops up repeatedly, in both the lyrics ("Immortal, you'll survive me," sings Leigh on the opener) and the titles ("Nowhere Ending Sky," "Reach The Endless Sea"). This is also heard on the 15-minute long "Rückschlag / Rising, Then Resonant," where Shackleton, Motokawa and Meinhart lock into an exquisite, shimmering groove. Gently ringing vibraphone skips buoyantly over feather-light drums and playful bass warbles, the trio building, sustaining and refining a cosmic-feeling jam that feels like it could stretch into eternity.