Despite his Michigan roots, beatmaker Shigeto (aka Zach Saginaw) has long drawn comparisons to the burgeoning LA beat scene, producing off-kilter hip hop beats shot through with jazz and soul. Shigeto’s two albums to date have impressed but come off ultimately lacking, yet Saginaw’s talent as a percussionist has always been abundantly clear; his rich, live drum sounds replacing the tinny machinedrum loops of many of his Californian peers. After two long players, Full Circle and Lineage, which came across as examinations of nostalgia and the continuing effect of the past on the present, the title and musical content of his third full-length show Saginaw turning to face the present, resulting in his strongest, most confident release to date.
The thing it’s impossible to miss here is how beautifully produced every track on here is: each sound and instrument infuse the listening space with a rich warmth, bringing the listener’s attention to the myriad details that make up each sonic tapestry. The composition itself is also a huge step up for Shigeto, who shows a sonic adventurousness as he allows his sound to expand and move across different motifs and styles within the space of a single track. This thrilling restlessness is best encapsulated on the likes of Detroit Part 1, where a dense beat field recalls Flying Lotus (but richer, more expensive), as soulful chords give way to a sophisticated chiming melody, drawing the track into a warbling analog synth-jam where it concludes. Each phrase moves into the next organically and unpredictably, showing off Saginaw’s new production chops.
One of the album’s other showstoppers is follow-up Ringleader, a complex song hewn from jazzy drum work and gorgeous melodies that burst from the speakers with uninhibited joy. Yet Saginaw’s new talents are not limited to beat-tracks – indeed some of No Better Time Than Now’s strongest moments are on its beatless numbers. Opener First Saturn Return is a beautiful foray into cosmic jazz where luscious keys roll over a whirring synth that gains in speed, as searing woodwind join the mix in a moment of alchemic power and elegance. Later, on album highlight Miss U, Shigeto drops the pace, allowing mournful Rhodes keys to play out over reverbed chimes and yearning atmospherics.
The range of styles and forms across the album show an artist utterly unrestrained by genre boundaries and established forms, as Saginaw moves through styles and tempos with the deft hand of an experienced virtuoso. While all of the tracks may not leave the lasting impact of the album’s best, No Better Time Than Now is a joy from start to finish, its ever-shifting array of rhythms and melodies pleasing the music-lover, its lush sonic universe sure to delight even the most hardened audiophiles.