Floating Points: Elaeina

Elaeina is some delicious food for the brain and ears. It’s a record that’s damn near impossible to label.

Floating Points


Label: Luaka Bop
US Release Date: 2015-11-06
UK Release Date: 2015-11-06

Often when we speak about an artist’s evolution, we look at baby steps. We chart album by album, seeing the gradual slope and change to the work, how genres merge and blend over time. It is not so with Floating Points. The project has always been odd, formulating over jazz, wonky IDM, and a grab-bag of other sounds into a fluid niche of works, but Elaeina is a burst from a germ to something with tendons, flesh, and blood.

That makes sense in the context of Floating Points’ creator, Sam Shepherd. Shepherd had already gained his PhD in neuroscience when Floating Points started generating buzz. Looks like he wanted to tap at neurons in a different fashion this time around. Certainly Elaeina is some delicious food for the brain and ears. It’s a record that’s damn near impossible to label. Are there strands of straight up dance music? Well of course, but DNA samples of chamber, jazz, ambient, and anything else Shepherd wanted to poke at end up on Elaeina in a dizzying, yet cohesive fashion.

That’s clear from opener “Nespole”. From Shepherd’s more DJ-centric days, it was obvious he had a mastery of layering, and “Nespole” proudly carries the tradition with a strange, clicking beat that’s made up of sheets and sheets of sound. Anyone of these could separately be a song unto itself, but Shepherd coalesces them into something brilliant that could find its way onto the dancefloor thanks to the constant, thumping rhythm, but could just as easily be used for a meditation session.

This sensibility carries over through out the album. “Argente” is less an experiment in layering than it is in building, but the same core principle applies. Shepherd presents something familiar and slowly starts to warp and grow it until it has shed all vestal applications and become its purest, best self. This is at its best on “Argente” as the slowly building synths eventually melt into a mesmerizing cascade.

Shepherd does allow for some fun, dancey moments on the later half of the album. The closing three songs, “Thin Air”, “For Mamish”, and “Peroration Six” all rely on rhythm more than their predecessors. “Thin Air” is the funniest of the bunch, bursting out of a stuttering high-hat into a burbling keyboard line. “For Mamish” is the slowest, but the most elegant of the bunch and closer “Peroration Six” falls into some dark waters, hinting at unsettling visions just beneath the crystalline surface Shepherd presents, nearly mimicking some of the eerier moments of Amnesiac-era Radiohead.

The album is not without its flaws, mostly coming from the disappointing length and one filler track. The record only lasts seven songs, and with the flood of ideas that Shepherd clearly brings to the table, it’s a damn shame we don’t have more time in his world. What else does he have hiding up his sleeve that’s as cute and charming as “Nespole” or as frightening as “Peroration Six”? There’s also the title track, where Shepherd finally misses the happy medium between slow build and pay off. It’s the most ambient of all these tracks, never rising beyond a coo.

Though that might be understandable thanks to the preceding track “Silhouettes (I, II, III)”, which lands very cleanly into the running for song of the year. It’s a nearly 11-minute long monster of a suite, showcasing everything that Shepherd and some of his cohorts get right on Elaeina. After some shocking, prog-like organ stabs, chiming keys bounce over a nimble drum line that ebbs and flows at just the right times, leading the song to its climaxes. The first just comes from a rising, gorgeous, keyboard line, but the second is even better. The keyboard, rough in texture, rises again, but it’s met with a soaring string section that is spectacular. It’s romantic in the sense of just how sweeping it is in ambition and general scope. Few songs (and few artists) have the dedication to create something like this, but Shepherd has with beautiful flair. Surely with his studies on the human mind, Shepherd knows that Elaeina will start a budding addiction. Surely this is only the first proper taste from something captivating. What else will evolve?





Run the Jewels - "Ooh LA LA" (Singles Going Steady)

Run the Jewels' "Ooh LA LA" may hit with old-school hip-hop swagger, but it also frustratingly affirms misogynistic bro-culture.


New Translation of Balzac's 'Lost Illusions' Captivates

More than just a tale of one man's fall, Balzac's Lost Illusions charts how literature becomes another commodity in a system that demands backroom deals, moral compromise, and connections.


Protomartyr - "Processed by the Boys" (Singles Going Steady)

Protomartyr's "Processed By the Boys" is a gripping spin on reality as we know it, and here, the revolution is being televised.


Go-Go's Bassist Kathy Valentine Is on the "Write" Track After a Rock-Hard Life

The '80s were a wild and crazy time also filled with troubles, heartbreak and disappointment for Go-Go's bass player-guitarist Kathy Valentine, who covers many of those moments in her intriguing dual project that she discusses in this freewheeling interview.


New Brain Trajectory: An Interview With Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree

Two guitarists, Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree make an album largely absent of guitar playing and enter into a bold new phase of their careers. "We want to take this wherever we can and be free of genre restraints," says Lee Ranaldo.


'Trans Power' Is a Celebration of Radical Power and Beauty

Juno Roche's Trans Power discusses trans identity not as a passageway between one of two linear destinations, but as a destination of its own.


Yves Tumor Soars With 'Heaven to a Tortured Mind'

On Heaven to a Tortured Mind, Yves Tumor relishes his shift to microphone caressing rock star. Here he steps out of his sonic chrysalis, dons some shiny black wings and soars.


Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras' tētēma Don't Hit the Mark on 'Necroscape'

tētēma's Necroscape has some highlights and some interesting ambiance, but ultimately it's a catalog of misses for Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras.


M. Ward Offers Comforting Escapism on 'Migration Stories'

Although M. Ward didn't plan the songs on Migration Stories for this pandemic, they're still capable of acting as a balm in these dark hours.


Parsonsfield Add Indie Pop to Their Folk on 'Happy Hour on the Floor'

Happy Hour on the Floor is a considerable departure from Parsonsfield's acclaimed rustic folk sound signaling their indie-pop orientation. Parsonsfield remind their audience to bestow gratitude and practice happiness: a truly welcomed exaltation.


JARV IS... - "House Music All Night Long" (Singles Going Steady)

"House Music All Night Long" is a song our inner, self-isolated freaks can jive to. JARV IS... cleverly captures how dazed and confused some of us may feel over the current pandemic, trapped in our homes.


All Kinds of Time: Adam Schlesinger's Pursuit of Pure, Peerless Pop

Adam Schlesinger was a poet laureate of pure pop music. There was never a melody too bright, a lyrical conceit too playfully dumb, or a vibe full of radiation that he would shy away from. His sudden passing from COVID-19 means one of the brightest stars in the power-pop universe has suddenly dimmed.


Folkie Eliza Gilkyson Turns Up the Heat on '2020'

Eliza Gilkyson aims to inspire the troops of resistance on her superb new album, 2020. The ten songs serve as a rallying cry for the long haul.


Human Impact Hit Home with a Seismic First Album From a Veteran Lineup

On their self-titled debut, Human Impact provide a soundtrack for this dislocated moment where both humanity and nature are crying out for relief.


Monophonics Are an Ardent Blast of True Rock 'n' Soul on 'It's Only Us'

The third time's the charm as Bay Area soul sextet Monophonics release their shiniest record yet in It's Only Us.


'Slay the Dragon' Is a Road Map of the GOP's Methods for Dividing and Conquering American Democracy

If a time traveler from the past wanted to learn how to subvert democracy for a few million bucks, gerrymandering documentary Slay the Dragon would be a superb guide.


Bobby Previte / Jamie Saft / Nels Cline: Music from the Early 21st Century

A power-trio of electric guitar, keyboards, and drums takes on the challenge of free improvisation—but using primarily elements of rock and electronica as strongly as the usual creative music or jazz. The result is focused.


Does Inclusivity Mean That Everyone Does the Same Thing?

What is the meaning of diversity in today's world? Russell Jacoby raises and addresses some pertinent questions in his latest work, On Diversity.

Collapse Expand Reviews
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.