John Glacier’s Shiloh: Lost For Words defies the simple label of ‘rap’ as it’s a deep entanglement of electronics and words; laid-back delivery with bite. Based in Hackney, Glacier is described as “an almost totemic figure within London’s underground music scene. Widely regarded as one of the UK’s most exciting and elusive talents”.
Each of the twelve tracks on Shiloh make perfect musical biospheres, like a drop of water sitting on a diamond. The drum traps can be trip-hop or hip-hop, but they form a solid backbone for the beautifully crafted musical arrangements such as the sliding, drunken backdrop to ‘If Anything’, the burbling arpeggios of ‘Icing’, the cosmic journey of ‘Cryptomnesia’, the Jamaican sunrise of ‘Trelawny Waters’, the raga-like drones of ‘Some Other Thing’ or the felt softness of ‘On Formulation’. Glacier’s voice is treated, doubled, warped, almost robotic at times but her relaxed monotone delivery is absorbing throughout. The melding of vocals and electronics create a ship-in-a-bottle perfection on every song.
I have used the analogy of Kintsugi before. It’s the Japanese art of ‘golden repair’ where broken pottery is mended with powdered gold making it very strong, but you can still see the breaks. And so it is with this album, John Glacier lays out her own heartbreaks, troubles, her bête noires but also throws down against her detractors. I love the lyrics of ‘Icing’ in particular, defiant but distant, bothered-not-bothered, rise-above don’t sink to their level: “know that they don’t like me, like me, they just think I’m icy, think I’m pretty spicy, spicy, don’t see me as human, chocolate brown is shining, shining”
Had electronic pioneers like Wendy Carlos or Delia Derbyshire still been with us I can imagine them working on albums like this. They put a sparkling future within reach and it’s the same with Shiloh: Lost For Words. John Glacier seems to see beyond our meagre understanding of the universe and has brought us cinema for the mind – The Womxn Who Fell to Earth – rap sent back from the future so we can marvel at how enlightened we will eventually become.
Review by Paul F Cook