2 EPs, 1 Summer: Shigeto is Busy

By Petr Moore

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Shigeto has been nothing but busy.  In addition to developing and touring with his new live act, the Shigeto Live Ensemble, the Detroit-based producer – real name Zach Saginaw – is already set to release his second EP this summer. Besides consistently putting in work in the studio and releasing new music, he also runs the label Portage Garage Sounds which includes a heavy catalogue from Detroit’s most cutting edge electronic producers: Charles Trees, Pablo Ruiz, and US DnB mainstay Osborne to name a few.   

photo by Marc Espowood

Shigeto’s musical background is in jazz drumming, and his early releases, an experimental medley of lazy house and hip-hop beat tapes, reflect this. Despite his jazz background, Shigeto is no stranger to throwing down hard-hitting records and sets; his recent Equalizer mix – an all-vinyl set at a warehouse rave released on Ghostly’s   – was all hard ‘90s techno. He took the opportunity to explore this more club-oriented sound on his first release this summer, Shigeto EP, on Vanity Press Records.  

While this record is not as hard-hitting as Equalizer, the tracks would all be appropriate to hear on a good night out. Long synth chords gently break over pitched down jungle and jazz breaks while soft, deep kicks hold the crazy, un-quantized patterns together like glue. The first two tracks, “Jetsettin” and “Pusher” are more spacey and ambient, while the B-Sides, “Alley Oop” and “New Course,” are more punchy.

With the live ensemble, Shigeto has been exploring his early roots with jazz.  The group–which consists of Shigeto, pianist Ian Fink, saxophonist Marcus Elliot, and often joined by Detroit house legend Andrés on the congas–has been hard at work promoting their upcoming album.  Since releasing the single from their upcoming Time EP, the band has been playing gigs without rest, including upcoming dates at two of the Ghostly 20 year anniversary events in Chicago and LA, and a show at Sonar in Athens.  The single, “MCW,” allows Shigeto to play his strengths; the song is a smooth mix of fast conga rhythms, a funky bass, ambient keys, and a lot of saxophone.  

While the live ensemble is definitely unorthodox, it’s hard to say it’s particularly experimental. It still sounds danceable–there’s a rhythmic 4/4 kick and the snare hits on every two.  Despite perhaps being unable to match up with the originality of more experimental live acts built on similar elements–like Jeff Mills and Afrobeat drummer Tony Allen’s collaboration or Mark Ernestus’ Ndagga Rhythm Force–Shigeto’s band leaves us with a track that has listeners anticipating the September release of Time.

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