The self-effacing Lancashire-born Sam Shackleton first came to prominence during the early rise of the dubstep scene, running the label Skull Disco alongside Appleblim. Skull Disco is considered to have been influential, in that it combined more abstract or avant-garde musical forms with music that could work on advanced dancefloors. It was home to Shackleton's cuts such as 'Stalker', 'Death Is Not Final' and 'Blood On My Hands', reworked by Ricardo Villalobos into an 18 minute four to the floor version. Most recently he released 3 EPs on Perlon, a Berlin label renowned for its low key approach to high creativity. From dubstep to techno, Shackleton's maverick take on big basslines and complex beats doesn't fit into any easy categories and that's how it's going to stay. Shackleton's records and live sets are thrilling and unique in their absorbing complexity and pure dancefloor enchantment.
"I never thought that fabric would be interested in my music to be honest and so it was a pleasant surprise when they asked me to play in room 1, back before most other London venues would touch me, or indeed had probably heard of me. It was an even more pleasant surprise for me that some people enjoyed it. I've since been asked back quite regularly and every time it seems to go better. I think this is because of the sound system. It is amongst the best I have played on... With the mix I've made, I have tried to make a set that would best represent the set I played on that night [at fabric], but minus the mistakes. Some of the tracks are re-jigged versions of older material, some of them are new. Some of them will never see a release in any form aside from this. Some of them are not even tracks, just coincidental parts merging with each other between tracks. Those are the best bits actually. I don't expect everyone to like it. I know it is not to everyone's taste. That's why I appreciate Judy sticking her neck out for this and I hope some people like it." Shackleton
fabric 55 is a timely record of Shackleton's electric live performances, recorded in the studio but directly inspired by the fabric floor. The mix features partly new and unreleased original material - as well as tracks that have previously appeared on Perlon, Skull Disco and Hotflush, but in very different forms than the listener will have heard before. Rising out of the murky opening atmospheres are Shackleton's favoured tribal drums and percussion that rapidly kick things into action. Refined sub-bass underpins much of the music here, alongside ceaseless drums, ominous vocal samples and layers of precise hisses, bleeps and mournful melody. Key to Shackleton's sound is a lightness of touch and delicacy in the arrangement that could be at odds with the force of his sound but instead illuminates the different parts and awakens the senses. At times seriously freaky and twisted, with frantic percussion and jarring keys, there's an all-encompassing deepness to the whole as Shackleton weaves a path that completely absorbs up to the final sigh of the closing bars. It's a mix that instantly captures the listener and barely lets up before finally releasing you after 80 minutes of some of the most deep, intense and beautiful electronic music you are likely to hear this year.