Getting to What Remains

Shane Latimer (Photo: Ziga Koritnik)

Getting to What Remains

Musician and composer Shane Latimer has just released a new album, 'Residuum', on the Diatribe label. Don O'Mahony reviews.

Across the early part of his recorded oeuvre, Shane Latimer could be considered something of a musical chameleon. I daresay one would be hard pushed to guess which of the compositions on avant jazz ensemble Rhythm Method’s 2014 album By the Bye were his given the guitarist’s reluctance to take the spotlight on his three contributions. As part of another, and very different group, OKO, Latimer’s guitar and electronics serve the overall electronic, jazz-flecked grooves. Likewise, anyone who encountered Latimer’s solo live guitar and electronic improvisations might have found it hard to reconcile those defiantly experimental and uncompromising excursions with the more broadly appealing musical documents. 

But elements of those outfits as well as his outings with Numberwang and Holy Moly have found their way, or shall we say, in respect of his new album’s title, have been distilled into his current solo trajectory. Indeed, on Holy Moly’s self-titled 2017 album the scrapings and swirls of electronic sounds became a characteristic of Latimer’s sound world.

Alongside those, the John Fahey-like guitar deconstructions of Latimer’s recorded live solo outings, Brinkaware (2018) and Mervitzah (2019), have now been parlayed into the domain of modular synthesis. 

One could say that this solo work was the point where Latimer found his true colours. ‘All the Answers’, from 2019’s Mervitzah, features what becomes a recurring motif on Residuum, that cyclical sound of something rotating in traction. This is apparent as one approaches the halfway point of his new solo long player. ‘Ten Minutes in the Tumble Dryer’ begins with intermittent rubbing and scraping, some of it gritty and coarse, alongside the tensile friction of guitar strings. Accompanying these textures are a shallow rubbery pulse, the clinking of glass, and misty guitar. It’s a rickety caravan of sound, building up a suspense-filled mood, accentuated by the reintroduction of more prominent and circular scraping, and the mysterious allure of twangy guitar. 

This leads into the turntable-based ‘Press Here to Capture the Memory’. The title may suggest the record button of a cassette recorder or the shutter release of a camera, but the use of the word ‘press’ does not feel incidental. It draws attention to the physicality of a track that has the rhythmic bumps of a needle in a vinyl record groove, the leaden rumble when it runs off at the end, a carpet of hiss, the hum of amps, and the static of a valve radio. It becomes enveloping. For a brief moment what sounds like the voice of newsreader Eileen Dunne attempts to break through before being swallowed by angry pops and crackles. At another moment, a distorted melody is swamped by static as soon as it appears. 

The pensive ‘Uninorm Uniform Unicorn’, with its very slow melody and diaphanous synth, feels like the immediate wake of a coastal storm, catching a world coming to from shattered repose. 

Gentle sandpapering
opening track ‘Ebb’ would lead one to think an album of uptempo, if leftfield, electronica awaited them. The commencing three-note sequence from a piano is joined by the delicate pinprick of guitar string and that familiar rubbing motion like a gentle sandpapering. Any anticipation that the album will pan out along those lines, enforced by ‘Ebb’s’ slowly rising thumb taps of bass culminating in a low key guitar solo, is dampened by the next two numbers: ‘Cheap Shades’, with its monitor hum and languid guitar picking, and the brief ‘Molecular Approach’, which sounds like objects tilted around a container. But the penultimate track, the Autechre sounding ‘Clickbait’, with its rapid-fire thumps, sub-bass bumps and electronic gurgles under the canopy of a bright synth, does pick up ‘Ebb’s’ sense of urgency. 

‘High and Mighty’ brings the curtain down with its groans and shrieks of layered guitars growing evermore furious, as if Sonic Youth were cranking up, only to stumble and expire at the crescendo. 

The end of a process
The title
Residuum suggests that what we have here is the residue, the remains at the end of a process. It feels like an apt metaphor for this collection of music, particularly in the context of his work to date. It feels like a very particular distillation of his music, done in a way that extracts the maximum from the residue. 

If you view Mervitzah as a deconstruction of guitar work up to BrinkawareResiduum is a similar reconstruction of the electronic work on Catch & Release (2020). If indeed so much of it is based on chance and improvisation it feels like Latimer has set certain parameters too. Restraint is the watchword. 

To this listener, at least, it feels important to know how he arrived at this point and see Residuum as part of a continuum of construction, deconstruction and reconfiguration. Perhaps there are deeper associations to be gleaned through the prism of that other meaning of the word, which relates to a disaffected strata of society. It is interesting to note that Latimer has spoken on how Residuum showcases his studio work; the album is rooted in four or five years of work on the modular sampler array and patching together and repurposing previously recorded pieces.

On initial listens, Residuum seems preoccupied with sound on a surface level: noise, textures and the contours and spatial resonances of sound. But further listens reveal deeper, if carefully parcelled, pleasures.

Residuum is available on vinyl from Diatribe records. Visit

Published on 30 May 2024

Don O'Mahony is a freelance arts journalist based in Cork.

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