The apparent musical influences of Florida-based producer, The FloodShark, differ little from those of the average musician dipping their toes into electronic music’s waters, but there is nothing at all ordinary about the way in which these stylistic inspirations come together in his eclectic brand of plunderphonics, instrumental hip hop, jazz, ambient and experimental music. A self-described “carnivorous, fresh-water tolerant, cold-blooded, cartilaginous, man-eating thresher”, the soundscapes crafted by The FloodShark are reminiscent of the sounds of the sea, in all its states of chaos and calm. In October of last year, the composer put out his first two projects, Synthetic Shark and Let Loose the Floodgates, an EP and LP joint release that mirror both of these states. The bustling, restless synth textures of tracks like ‘Electric Eel’ pile up on one another like waves crashing onto rocks, whilst the fluid ambience of cuts such as ‘Wall of Flood’, which comes complete with samples of trickling water, gently drift by, with the pulsations of the swirling synths occasionally changing pace, like a reflection of the changing in the tides. In so potently alluding to the sounds and spirit of the sea, The FloodShark carves out a conceptual and highly intriguing position for himself amongst other electronic artists working with similar stylistic touchstones.
Indeed, for fans of the luminaries of electronic music’s varying forms, The FloodShark’s music will reference many customary sounds and styles without completely covering familiar ground. The meeting of a dynamic, tinkering jazz piano with swells of squelching synths on ‘Lurking in the Deep’ conveys an attitude towards texturing evocative of the collaborations between ambient veteran Brian Eno and core members of the experimental group Cluster, Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Dieter Moebius, particularly pieces like ‘Selange’ from their first joint effort, Cluster & Eno. The additions of a sporadic, house-tinged kick and fizzles of searing synths, however, recontextualise such an approach into a more eclectic and indulgent format. Of course, taking rather direct cues from the likes of Brian Eno is to be expected of almost any electronic musician, but in the case of The FloodShark, especially on the final two tracks from Let Loose the Floodgates, ‘Rainesville / After the Flood’ and ‘Back to Sea / Symphony of the Seas’, this seemingly typical ambient aesthetic is interlaced within passages of erratic, contemporary classical-inspired interludes, busy layers of bubbling electronic tension and samples of pattering rain and sloshing water. Within this compositional blueprint, perhaps the most interesting feature is the water recording, in that, on cuts like ‘Back to Sea / Symphony of the Seas’, the mellow breeziness of flowing water almost assumes the role of an ambient drone by providing the consistent and unchanging backbone of the piece. In this regard, there are most definitely parallels to be drawn between The FloodShark and German artist Wolfgang Voigt’s ambient project, GAS, in their similar attitudes towards layering textures of vibrant sounds, from both electronic and organic sources.
On the other side of the spectrum, much of Synthetic Shark, being true to its name, is far more electronic-orientated than its LP-length counterpart, making use of glitchy percussive textures, bubbly bass lines and glistening synth leads. The squeaky, jittery rhythms of ‘Kai’ are paired with glossy piano chords and flourishes of synthesized melodies as to create a wonky, future bass sound. The danceable house beat, gleaming electronic embellishments and brooding synth chords of ‘Swamp Stomp’, on the other hand, retain a distinct glitch hop aesthetic, whilst evoking Aphex Twin’s brand of ambient techno-infused IDM. Even amidst these explorations of modern electronic music’s diverse subsets, The FloodShark stays true to his conceptual fundamentals, with the expansive atmosphere and menacing crescendos of ‘Dark Blue Deluge’, evoking a Jaws theme-like sense of tension, which is released with the introduction of a brief respite of jazzy piano.
Ultimately, of all the stylistic ground covered by The FloodShark across Let Loose the Floodgates and Synthetic Shark, the recurrence of similar musical and aesthetic themes anchors these sounds in a solid concept that brings a feeling of cohesion and consistency to the project. Rather than simply adhering to the formula provided by the genre’s torchbearers, the artist manages to successfully interact with these pre-established motifs and incorporate his own definitive style into the mix, as to provide the foundation for what could surely develop into a truly unique musical identity.