Transmissions :: Floating Points
This week on the show, we’re joined by Sam Shepherd, AKA Floating Points. His discography is full of beautiful and strange electronic music—bubbling Buchalas, skittering beats, washes of synthesized sound, and even moody, spacious post-rock. But underneath it all, his love of jazz is clear. In 2021, he teamed with an actual jazz legend: the late Pharoah Sanders, as well as the London Symphony Orchestra for Promises, a single 46-minute composition broken into nine movements.
Though the artists were separated by decades in age, their approach is simpatico. Just as Shepherd has moved between genres and styles, so did Pharoah. His early work with John and Alice Coltrane established him as a dynamic, sometimes frighteningly intense sideman, and his first run of records, including 1969’s Karma, featuring “The Creator Has a Master Plan,” helped set the stage for what we now call “spiritual jazz.”
But Sanders, who passed away in 2022 at the age of 81, cared very little about what genre you filed his records under. “I just play whatever I feel like playing,” he told The New Yorker. Sanders stayed restless and creative—listen to his playing on Sonny Sharrock’s masterful Ask the Ages or his works with Bill Laswell, and you’ll hear what we mean. In 1977, he waded into deeply personal waters with the self-titled Pharoah, which will be reissued by Luaka Bop on September 15th. Exploring new age adjacent sounds, funk, and passionate ballads, it’s a radical departure from his early work, but perfectly in keeping with Sanders’ unpredictable ethos.
Likewise, Promises is hardly the “back to basics” late career album you might expect an 80-year-old artist to make. It’s its own thing, a meditative sojourn that relies on silence as much as sound. And next week, on September 20th, Floating Points will be joined by past Transmissions guest Shabaka Hutchings, as well as Caribou, Four Tet, the Sun Ra Arkestra, and others for the first-ever staging of Promises live at the Hollywood Bowl. Ahead of that show, Shepherd joined us from his studio to discuss his his years collecting records, making Promises—and we even got him to reveal Pharoah’s favorite place to eat in LA.
Transmissions is a part of the Talkhouse Podcast Network. Visit the Talkhouse for more interviews, fascinating reads, and podcasts, like Drifter’s Sympathy, with Emil Amos of Grails, Om, Holy Sons, who will be our guest next week on Transmissions. And of course No Way Out: An Oral History of Sunburned Hand of the Man, curated and produced by J Kelly Davis and presented by Aquarium Drunkard and Talkhouse. Back soon. Next week on the show, Jarvis Taveniere of Woods.