Known on dancefloors and tastefully progressive U.K. radio programs as Floating Points, producer and DJ Sam Shepherd has applied his love for gritty funk, slick R&B, and avant-garde jazz to house, techno, and orchestral compositions that have tended to be equally stimulating through club sound systems and headphones. After trickling out tracks for several years, the project broke through to a wider audience with the full-length Elaenia (2015), a richly produced album that, for many, served as an introduction to Shepherd’s hybrid style. His wider-scoped works since then include Reflections: Mojave Desert (2017) and Crush (2019).
Shepherd launched Floating Points in 2008 by releasing some white-label singles plus a bootleg remix of Sun Ra’s “I’ll Wait for You.” BBC DJ Gilles Peterson picked up on both and featured the two tracks on his Worldwide radio program. Even though Shepherd was finishing his PhD in neuroscience, he found time in 2009 to partner with Rinse FM left-field DJ Alexander Nut and form Eglo, a label that became revered for releases from the likes of FunkinEven and frequent Shepherd collaborator Fatima. Among Shepherd’s own early highlights for the label were cuts like “Vacuum Boogie” and “Peoples Potential.”
The producer’s output became increasingly spacious and musical, as heard in the progression traced through cuts such as “Sais,” “King Bromeliad,” and “Nuits Sonores.” Additionally, Shepherd led the 16-member Floating Points Ensemble for a Ninja Tune single and BBC Maida Vale session that bridged 4hero’s chamber soul and the work of contemporary West Coast arranger/composer Miguel Atwood-Ferguson. In 2015, after over a dozen releases and roughly as many remixes, Shepherd released the debut Floating Points album, Elaenia, through his Pluto label in the U.K. and David Byrne’s Luaka Bop in the U.S. It was celebrated by almost every outlet that covered it, including Resident Advisor, whose staff declared the album the best of the year. In 2016, after Katy B’s Honey sported a track produced by Shepherd and Kieran Hebden, Floating Points returned with Kuiper, an expansive two-track EP. That August, just prior to a U.S. tour, Shepherd and his band rehearsed, recorded, and were filmed in the Mojave Desert. The visit was documented with Reflections: Mojave Desert, a heavier affair released the following June. In 2019, Shepherd participated in the ongoing Late Night Tales series, creating a DJ mix that included work of his own as well as deep-cut ambient, jazz, and global soul selections. Later that year he released Crush, his second studio album, on Ninja Tune. A raw and uncompromising blast of experimental — yet accessible — electronica, it was inspired by his solo live experiments on Buchla modular synth while opening for the xx. ~ David Jeffries & Andy Kellman