If you visit Wikipedia’s page on dubstep there is a refined example of what a bass drop incorporates, using Sam Shackleton’s “Naked” as a vivid illustration. For all the modifications the genre has outlived since its inception (including Skrillex’s awful take on it) artists like Shackleton have continued to envelop the spectrum of dubstep into something much more than wobbly bass and the aforementioned bass drop. With the celebration of his own label, Shackleton released a box set that features a collection of EPs, tied together as The Drawbar Organ EPs, and a full-length LP, Music for the Quiet Hour. Continuing to mystify audiences with ethereal, oft-experimental electronic music, Shackleton delivers one of the finest jewels of 2012.
The album itself is an exploration of electronic music in perhaps, its purest forms. Combining spoken word, slow-building beats and basses that never shroud the complex too much, Shackleton incorporates a world of music that is somewhat classical in its composition, while maintaining some of the dubstep roots he’s always fashioned. Split into five tracks that are simply titled parts one through five; Music for the Quiet Hour is just what the title would hope to depict: music for a chillingly calm time. Leaving immediacy behind – in favor of burning works that assemble the walls unhurriedly and vigilantly – Shackleton combines the world he lives in with some eerie scopes that always seem to be focused on the atmosphere and a spectral quality unlike many others.
On “Part 4” Shackleton constructs the over twenty-minute long cycle with vocal blips and soft-tempered percussion. Beginning with a shaking force and the repetitive affirmation of a voice declaring “is…is…is,” Shackleton adds stomping snares and basses behind the support of jagged rhythms. After the sounds of the rainforest creep in and out of display, he adds a faster clapping of drums and an ominous array of atmospheres that act as the clouds to Shackleton’s spectrum. While the arch he’s following is never one that intends to necessarily move forward, the music is aided by an ambient release that allows the spoken word basis about the world and its failing capabilities to strongly resonate. The crisis he speaks about is illustriously brought to life by aching tones that recall a solemn state of mind. It acts as perhaps the most outwardly experimental take on electronic and still, fits neatly inside the realm Shackleton has created.
In almost stark contrast, “Part 2” takes a revolving keyboard line and more atmospheric touches for a stronger sense of tempo and drive. Here Shackleton takes a melodic rhythm and adds layers upon layers – cymbals that act as the force inside of a syncopated beat, pummeling snares and basses that deliver a resounding stomp and even the slight reverb is the channeling of the wall of sound – before exploding it with rushes of water. Even on “Part 3,” where he introduces scattered chimes and a filtered pattern on a marimba, the music never comes into clear and concise focus. Instead, Shackleton will bury the sounds with an even-keeled control of both his vocal chants and instruments. The territory that Shackleton is attacking is something that both Brian Eno and Burial have attempted and achieved; however, Shackleton is combining the senses for what seems to be a brilliant journey through what can truly be described as “music for the quiet hour.”
What Shackleton has accomplished through the hour of relentless pace he has crafted is yet another example of why and how diverse electronic music really is. This vast umbrella features many multi-faceted sounds that somehow, dubstep just isn’t enough. There’s equal parts melody and harmony but when you combine them with a rhythmic pulse, dissonant atmospheres and layers of drums the ending fruition is something not easily classified. Then again, that might be the entire goal, as Music for the Quiet Hour succeeds in: music is all-encompassing and when done well, it’s a fantastic triumph.