Ellis Island Sound – Divisions

Ellis Island Sound - Divisions

Ellis Island Sound – Divisions

Having made us wait the best part of seven years between 2007’s The Good Seed and 2014’s Regions, it’s somewhat remarkable – but entirely welcome – that another Ellis Island Sound release should reach us so soon in the form of this seven-track mini-album.  Although featuring material chiselled during the same sessions as the well-carved Regions (some of which had been destined for a dub remix project), Divisions is far from being an afterthought or left-overs sequel. Largely eschewing much of the wider-screen afro-motorik drive of its predecessor and peeling-back to the two-man set-up of Pete Astor and David Sheppard, this is a record of inspiring invention and intimacy.

With Sheppard ambidextrously deploying himself across an array of percussion, keyboards and guitars and Astor concentrating on electronics, editing and arrangements, the seven wordless pieces of Divisions string together with both sublime sophistication and inviting warmth.  Although Astor and Sheppard revisit favourite influences and their own past wares together and apart (with State River Widening, The Wisdom Of Harry, Phelan Sheppard, Snow Palms et al.) the mini-LP radiates with a freshness that somewhat belies the combined length of their musical careers to date.

The opening “Nothing Is Lost” sets things up beautifully with lush and layered Steve Reich rippling, before bleeding into the tropical rhythm loveliness of “Water Library.”  For “Asa Kusa” shades of the Fela Kuti-meets-mid-’70s-Can explorations of Regions return to the sonic palette, albeit with the added hues of ecclesiastical keyboards.  For the midpoint of “Envoi” the plaintive percussion and winsome guitar meshes of Sheppard’s much-missed State River Widening outfit are thoughtfully yet tangentially recalled, whilst “Mombassadorf” masterfully cross-references his elegant shimmering polyrhythmic explorations with Snow Palms.  For the mesmeric “Maple Gardens” the most aquatic dub-like passages of Tortoise’s touchstone TNT are nodded to and augmented with the subtle addition of ululating vocal samples reminiscent of Kraftwerk’s criminally unavailable Ralf And Florian. To conclude proceedings, the aptly-named “Home Time” gently folds together elements of Yann Tiersen’s Amélie and Good Bye Lenin! scores with the more stripped-down piano works of Philip Glass, into a pensive yet uplifting parting short.

Having already treated us to the long-gestated Regions a matter of months back, returning so soon with the divine Divisions both happily breaks Ellis Island Sound’s slow-release rate pattern and embarrasses us with riches.  Overall, its elevating contours act as an indubitable career high-point for its well-travelled co-creators.

Village Green