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Shigeto at Omeara REVIEW

Detroit producer Shigeto brought his jazz, polyrhythmic stylings to Omeara in South London and we were there to check it out.

The first track on Shigeto’s 2013 album was called Detroit: Part I, and it was distinct not only because it implied a follow-up, but also because it followed none of the conventions of Detroit music as we know it, it was quintessentially Shigeto. Four years later, the Ann Arbour native has put out a new album, and guess what the first track on that one is called? Detroit Part II does sound like a motor city artefact, but it’s characterised not by chopped up sampling and fractured beats, but by live instrumentation, in particular a saxophone feature courtesy of legendary session player Marcus Elliot.

Through those four years, just as scenes have moved and coalesced, so Shigeto’s sound has changed, but it has remained quintessentially him. Whether it’s the trippy, echoing vocal loops, the warm synth tones or the live drumming, all has changed, all has stayed the same. Earlier this week, Shigeto returned to his old stomping grounds of South London (where he resided for a few years back in the ’00s) to play a show at one of the newest venues to open on the lower side of the river – Omeara.

Situated between Borough and London Bridge, the small venue is following the same trend as other emergent spots in London like Archspace and Spiritland – small intimate spaces with a focus on comfortable surroundings and mind-melting sound. In this case, it resembles a kind of vaudeville horror setting, like the stage from of Chuck Palahniuk’s Haunted. Despite the creepiness, it’s a welcoming space, and ideally suited for a musician like Shigeto, who you need to see performing almost as much as you need to hear him.

When he emerged, he immediately took the time to give his sound man a shoutout before launching straight into Detroit Part I, and then blending it beautifully into Detroit Part II. The following 90 minutes featured a mixture of material from his new album and old standards, with almost no pockets of punctuating silence to mark the transitions. The best word I could use to describe it would be seamless, swiftly followed by entrancing. Shigeto spent the whole set bouncing between his drum kit, his mixing desk and a vocal mic, moving samples around, looping chords and vocal samples and bringing everything into order before settling on his stool and taking up the sticks. I felt out of breath just watching him work, rarely do you see a producer try to spin so many plates all at once.

What characterises Shigeto’s music most of all is that it manages to retain that seem restrained beauty regardless of how heavy, light, fast or slow the beat might be. He’s not stranger to odd time signatures, but at no point did I or anyone else in the enthused crowd feel like they were losing the thread of what was happening on stage. Electronic music is hard to communicate live in a way that feels truly live, but Shigeto’s approach to both his production and his performance left no doubt that what was going on in front of us was tangible and unique, it was a one-off.

When the show ended, after an impressive encore, the crowd slowly shuffled out, mired in a state of collective bewilderment. In the several years Shigeto has been signed to Ghostly International, he’s become one of the label’s frontmost ambassadors and it’s easy to see why. The New Monday feels like a transitional point in his career, and seeing him performing it on stage only cemented that fact.

Before leaving London, Shigeto paid a visit to Worldwide.fm and played a 2 hour set. Check it out here.

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