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LOKA
Fire Shepherds

ZENCD89
Ninja Tune 2006
07 Tracks. 43mins15secs

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In the case of Loka, time is very much of the essence. Having made their first appearance on Ninja Tune’s Xen Cuts compilation in 2004, it took four years for the duo formed of Karl Webb and Mark Kyriacou to release a first single, Beginningless, and two more years would pass before they finally delivered Fire Shepherds. A long gestation indeed, but well worth the wait.

Hailing from Liverpool, Webb and Kyriacou formed Loka out of a shared fascination for soundtrack scores, late sixties improvisation and electronica, and various combinations of all three elements form the remarkably strong backbone of Fire Shepherds and dictates its relentless drive. Loka feed on jazz influences, often applying a vaguely similar treatment to that of Jaga Jazzist, yet, the duo’s approach seems in many ways more direct and punchy. Loka paint their music with cinematic brushes, creating highly textural and colourful compositions and imaginative narratives all the way through. The impressive consistency of sound and density that runs throughout Fire Shepherds is echoed by the great maturity and sharp instinct shown by the pair when it comes to developing melodic themes and taking them to various new levels over the course of a single track. The listener is propelled into a rich sonic universe where brass and string sections appear to drive the groove as much as Eamon Ellams’s ubiquitous drums. Carefully orchestrated and assembled, the seven tracks spanning the forty-three minutes of this record become a beautiful soundtrack to an imaginary film and roll on a multitude of emotions. As the boundaries of each track become blurred, Loka appear to deflect the attention toward the work as a single piece, each track representing a variation on a central theme.

The album opens under the sombre drones of a lonely piano before veering into soulful territory on Safe Self Tester. The escalating groove is stretched to accommodate the ebb and flow of the track, but, injected into Meet Dad, it suddenly becomes totally incandescent and charts a whole new territory. Here, Loka swap sixties soul for seventies pre-disco mood and deliver one of the finest and most engaging moments on this album. While Airfling and Beginningless investigate more subtle and introvert structures, the epic Freda Mae and the two-parter Tabernacle reveal the full extend of Loka’s conceptual approach. While the former is a rather slow-burner, the latter is truly incendiary and definitely concludes this album on an impressive high.

It may have taken Loka years to fine tune this little gem, but good things come to those who wait and Fire Shepherds sure is a magnificent piece.

4.7/5

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TRACKLIST

Safe Self Tester
Meet Dad
Airfling
Freda Mae
Beginningless
Tabernacle Pt. 1
Tabernacle Pt. 2

LOKA Discography

THE SURFER'S GUIDE TO LOKA
Ninja Tune

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