They say some of the best art is born of struggle, but in the case of Shigeto’s Semi-Circle EP, that struggle began more than 50 years ago, when the artist’s grandmother was a prisoner in her own country, locked in a Japanese internment camp in the US. Half a century later, her diminutive, half-Japanese grandson fought to forge his own identity as a musician and bi-racial American, ultimately taking on the name Shigeto (his middle name) as a tribute to his great grandfather. The Semi-Circle EP, Shigeto’s first release for Ghostly International, is a deep, vividly beautiful suite of electronic music—the opening salvo of Shigeto’s ode to family, melody, and the art of the beat.
The songs on Shigeto’s Semi-Circle EP are bright, constantly shifting compositions, heavy on hip-hop rhythm but lighter on their feet than your usual bedroom sample symphonies. Zach Saginaw was a jazz drummer before he started tinkering in Reason, and the three-over-four claps and stuttering hi-hats of “Eternal Life” bear testament to the producer’s hands-on approach. Elsewhere, “There Is Always Hope” crowds the speakers with sensorial detail—cut ‘n paste percussion, an almost-too-smooth synth obbligato, and wave after wave of saturated keyboard tones, bright as a winter sun. Closing track “Embrace the Cold” takes a darker approach, hinting at the paranoia and dread lurking at the heart of Shigeto’s uplifting endeavor. The track’s barrage of squelches and vibraphone evoke a high-speed chase—an escape, perhaps—from some enemy, real or imagined.
With history ringing in his ears, Zach uses his music as a way to reconnect with—and overcome—his family’s struggles. And with Shigeto as his guide, those struggles recede, flickering like lamplight in the distance.