I’d never been on a real passenger train until my trip to New England in 2009. And now that I know what it’s like to ride a train (no Quad City DJs), and now that I’ve heard Shigeto’s Full Circle, I can safely say that the two go together.
Full Circle conjures images of train rides, and not just the concept of passing beautiful snow-covered landscapes while you, totally slackjawed and dumbfounded by the beauty of it all, fog up the window and occasionally wipe it off with your sleeve. There’s also the common thread of forward locomotion, something you feel as the album chugs along, kind of unassumingly, as if it’s going about its own merry train-like way. The songs do meander, but not in an uninspired way—they just take their time, almost as if they’re marveling at their own surroundings. They also roll forward instead of building vertically—the sounds and samples move along, collecting each other, like a snowball packing more and more snow as it rolls, and the meandering pace lends itself well to this analogy. Speedy, Full Circle is not. It takes its time.
That’s not to say that the album isn’t headbob or dance-worthy. It is, although more closely aligned with European ideas of danceability—after all, IDM is a tag that’s thrown in Shigeto’s direction quite often. It’d be foolish to deny there’s a healthy hip-hop influence here, as evidenced by the beats on songs like “Ann Arbor, Pt. I” and “So So Lovely”. There’s no hiding Shigeto’s affection for his labelmates on Ghostly International (allegedly, getting to share the label with some of his heroes resulted in the album’s title). He has made references to jazz in the past, and his drumming style seems to take on jazz’s softer, more syncopated approach as evidenced by his drumming on tracks like “Brown Eyed Girl” or “Look at All the Smiling Faces”. Shigeto’s drumming puts him up there with producers like Daedelus as being part of the small, prestigious group of multifaceted electronic producers who contribute their own organic instrumentation. His influences seem to come from everywhere, but he makes them sound like they’re all coming from the exact same icy place, and that’s part of what makes Full Circle so appealing.
Enchanting though the long, meandering songs may be sometimes, they do wear on the listener’s patience, unless you’re so totally enraptured by the ambiance that you don’t mind. Shigeto isn’t so much about making songs as he is creating moods, but I can’t help but wonder what more straightforward production from Shigeto would sound like. He’s got all the right tools and a musically progressive mindset for it. This album could potentially be a springboard for greater things, much in the same way the tinkering, plodding Invention was for Daedelus, who later experimented with straightforwardness (to great result). Full Circle is wonderful indeed, and regardless of where he goes next, it’s undoubtedly just a small slice of the Shigeto pie–it’ll be even more exciting to hear how he evolves during his time with Ghostly. Watch this guy.