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2019 saw Firescope release a seminal album, The Lonely Machine by Britain’s John Shima. The world has become a very different place since then. The pandemic, economic turmoil and global crises prevail. It is amidst such uncertainty that Shima returns with a new collection to combat the savagery of our times, enter Empty Lands.
Dauby basslines and silken strings introduce “Component”, saturated snares giving ballast as Shima’s signature style immediately comes to the fore. A throbbing kick and orbiting notes are peppered with hi-hats for “Neglected”, a sonorous stratum synergising beautifully. Shima is a student of techno. His appreciation and knowledge of the sound is central to the album as he composes within the traditions of the UK and US canon while exploring new plains. The influence of “bleep” is woven into the tapestry of pieces like “Depart” and “Mettle” with the minimalism of the 90s genre reimagined through new textures. “Sayaka” flows with a different current. Rhythms are understated, lapping against undulating keys as dawn rises. Harmony and melody are cornerstones of record, the gentle ebbs and flows of key and drum merging. Inspiration arises from home as well. The steady pulse and metallic tang of “Projection” recalling the industry of Sheffield and the pioneering electronics that sprouted from that rust red earth.
Track titles, and the album name itself, suggest periods of challenge and difficulty. “Paralysis”, “Desolate”, “Empty Lands”. Words that conjure certain feelings and responses. Shima’s music is a counterbalance to these emotions. Positive compositions of subtle shifts, complementary percussion and welcoming warmth acting as a tonic to the negativity that swirls; the ten audio works on offer acting as a balm to soothe the soul in these troubled time