When I was an awkward, shoegazing seventeen-year-old, I possessed a prodigious talent for clearing rooms at house parties with my off-kilter taste in music. The great thing about iPod speakers is that they enable a democratic process of DJing to occur at parties, enabling someone like me to surreptitiously put on something suitably weird and avant-garde like Don Caballero while nobody was looking. It was all part of a futile bid to resist the ubiquitous obsession at the time with terribly produced Dubstep, and also the prospect of having to listen to Katy Perry’s ‘Firework’ all night on an incessant, disorientating loop.
Naturally, as soon as I had pressed the play button on my iPod, there would be an automatic diaspora of everyone in the room into the kitchen where something along the lines of ‘Like a G6’ would inevitably be playing. Evidently, I was missing something that would effectively bridge the gap between my music taste and everyone else’s. Therefore, if I’d had something on my iPod akin to Prismism Project’s latest single, ‘Throwing Shapes’, there’s a good chance people would have stayed.
Greg Hummell, the multi-instrumentalist virtuoso behind Prismism Project, masterfully meshes the accessible and the difficult together in his most recent offering to serve up an irrepressibly danceable, but cerebral, alternative electronic track. As described in Don’t Need No Melody’s short review of the song, ‘Throwing Shapes’ is a patchwork of some of Hummell’s most significant influences, Shigeto, Mogwai, Bonobo and Jon Hopkins. Interestingly enough, the structure of the song itself is genre spanning: the first half follows an organic electronic style which is then transposed to a 2-step format in the latter part.
With ‘Throwing Shapes’, Hummell employs a variegated palette of sounds and deftly interweaves them to achieve the perfect balance between rhythmic and textural development in his arrangement. One of the most refreshing components of the song is that it is not fundamentally beat orientated: the melodic content of the track is given its own pocket of space, floating and fluctuating mellifluously above the rhythm section. Nonetheless, the beat works well throughout the song as a dynamic device, ornamented at precise moments to reinforce the song’s velocity. Moreover, the major change in the beat pattern at 2.55 produces something that is pleasingly redolent of Radiohead’s ‘Idioteque’.
Every aspect of the song is meticulously engineered to simultaneously fully engage the listener and defy their expectations. From the outset, the listener is drawn in by a spectral and gothic synthesized chord sequence, which is soon underpinned by a chunky bassline.
The baroque touch of the swirling violin ostinato introduced at 2.24 provides a tonal antithesis to the playful, choppy guitar line that undercuts it and sustains the propulsive momentum of the track. This Battles-esque looped riff that chimes in to exquisite effect at 0.46, brings a technical element into the arrangement which should propitiate any math-rock purists out there.
There is an undeniable elegance to Hummell’s latest release and it’s all the more impressive as its his debut original composition under the umbrella of the electronic genre, previously having produced remixes of alternative bands. There is a subtle sublimity to the outro, in which a delicate coda played through a psychedelic synthesizer patch is introduced and then imitated by a pitch-shifting, ethereal vocal line. Through this, the track almost stumbles into dream-pop territory. The song is so saturated in intricate ideas and gestures to such a wide range of genres that it is probably worth footnoting it.
Overall, ‘Throwing Shapes’ showcases Hummell’s consummate ability to unify and interlace his multifarious, disparate influences to create music that is at once challenging and angular, but also approachable and integrally danceable. The best of both worlds. Now, who would like to throw some shapes with me to Craig David?