Shigeto - Lineage
Record Label: Ghostly International
Release Date: January 31st, 2012
Zach Saginaw's new mini-LP, Lineage, takes a refreshing departure from the subdued maximalism of his last full length. Where Full Circle, his last LP, was an onslaught of drum machine samples, smatterings of nervous asymmetrical hi hats, and gritty synths; Lineage has introduced an overarching element of restraint and calm to his creative process, and this has resulted in a wonderful collection of compositions for instrumental hip-hop lovers. A tribute to his past and his ancestry, Zach Saginaw, under pseudonym Shigeto, does not hesitate to let his jazz-soaked musical upbringing in Ann Arbor play a role as the inspirational backbone for his latest release.
Fans of the complexity of Saginaw's last full-length may be worried by the reserved quality of the first two songs - title track 'Lineage' and its 3 minute intro. This album doesn't start with guns blazing. Don't worry: Relax, slow your heart rate, turn up your headphones, lose yourself in the gated vibes and intricate background textures. By the time 'Ann Arbor part 3 & 4' rolls in with its Rhodes piano and bells over fast-paced cymbal and tambourine samples you'll hear the payoff and be thrown head first into Saginaw's new mellowed and nuanced aesthetic. The off-time electronic drum machine hits have been replaced by organic, symmetrical, head-nodding beats with live instruments and acoustic drum samples. The heavy hi-hat hits that characterized his last full length are all but missing – moved from the front of the mix to the back of the mind; the kitchen sink maximalism is replaced by a more nuanced and conservative approach to production.
'Soaring' stretches the validity of the preceding statement to its limit, however. A flurry of high range wobbling synths, variably spaced hi hat and snare hits meld together over an overarching harp sample for the busiest song on the album. The fifth song, 'A Child's Mind' tones down the funkiness, brings up the bpms to just below drum and bass speed, and strips the sound down to some shakers, jazz snares, bells, and a double bass. 'Huron River Drive' is a beautiful rainy-day 6/8 tune that draws out the introspective space of the listener. It is a pity that this song is about half as long as it could have been.
The second last song of the album is the only point in the album that could be considered a low point. This song relies heavily on a two-step-esque beat and doesn't get all that interesting until the final quarter of the song drops on us. Finally, the album finishes with another great song with some live drums and chilled out chants, but I thought the way this song ended made the album as a whole end abruptly and somewhat clumsily. I actually checked to see if I was missing a track. One more song or extended outro could have rounded out the album really well.
Overall Lineage is a very solid mini-LP and a great addition to Saginaw's already stellar catalog of music. That being said, there are a few speed bumps near the end of the album that keep it from being a truly transcendent experience from beginning to end. Don't let this discourage you from picking it up; some of Saginaw's best work to date is on this album.