Review Summary: Ladies and gentlemen, Shigeto!
When Shigeto, or Michigan’s Zach Saginaw, first popped onto the scene, one could be forgiven for thinking of him as merely a bandwagon musician. His first release, 2010’s “Full Circle,” was exactly the kind of release that fans of Flying Lotus and Nosaj Thing (both at the heights of their popularity) were wanting. Full of glitchy, off-kilter beat-driven concoctions, it was the perfect addition to that collective in a way that was self-effacing. The release, while perfectly passable in its own right, tried too hard to be “Cosmogramma” or “Drift” and ended up falling short of them both. When 2012 rolled around and with it came another new FlyLo record (the near-perfect “Until the Quiet Comes”), there was Shigeto with a release that attempted to keep pace with FlyLo’s more reserved material, complete with spacy arrangements and slow-burning interludes. Even though Shigeto’s release preceded FlyLo’s by months, “Until the Quiet Comes” was a much more fruitful release, and it’ll likely go down in history that FlyLo either did it first, or did it better. From this long and storied history of catch-up comes Shigeto’s third album, an album that might as well be a debut with its nascent attitude and push for singularity.
On “No Better Time than Now,” Shigeto does exactly what he’s been doing since “Full Circle”: permute abstract hip-hop with funk and soul. But this time around he does so in a way that feels almost completely unhinged from his contemporaries. While previous records received praise in that they sounded “like Flying Lotus,” this record brings the pleasant surprise of sounding more like Shigeto. The thumb-piano on “Detroit Part 1” sounds more soul-inspired than anything Mr. Ellison’s put out in the last couple of years, and the title track’s somewhat glitchy construction evokes the feeling of a lost Miles Davis or Jean-Luc Ponty piece. “Perfect Crime” stands out as an immaculately constructed piece of electronic-jazz with wonky Rhodes and a bassline that Bonobo wishes was on “North Borders.”
These are the high-points. But the album, unfortunately, isn’t as flawless cover-to-cover. The singular drum-and-Rhodes focus of this album can lend it the feel of an easy-listening record which, for an artist three albums in and just now demanding attention for individuality, can make the record feel sleepy. Tracks like “Tell a Tale” and “Soul Searching” try their best, but are hampered by the tracks that precede them. Where the album succeeds in defining and refining Shigeto’s personal style (albeit by pulling from other artists like Bonobo and Nujabes), it fails in providing enough variation to make for a wall-to-wall perfect listen.
The person mentioned in the first paragraph will, upon hearing this album, ultimately have to eat their hat. Shigeto really comes into his own on this album, with songs that bring his knack for orientally-tinged jazz and soul to the forefront. Despite the similarity of some songs to the works of others (read: the aforementioned FlyLo and Bonobo, as well as a bit of Shlohmo on “Miss U”), Shigeto sounds like an artist almost wholly divorced from the trends and ideas of his contemporaries on this album, while simultaneously taking the best parts of those trends. While “No Better Time…” is not a perfect record or an original one, it is one that’s worthy of praise and attention, if only because of how well Shigeto has learned to do Shigeto.