Warp Records techno OGs The Black Dog have opened 2018 with their most serene ambient release yet – which has sadly turned into a sort of tribute to filmmaker Shaun Bloodworth, who died in hospital in 2016 waiting for a liver transplant.
Bloodworth was best known for documenting the British electronic music underground in the 2000s, notably Rinse FM and its rising dubstep stars – his portrait of a sweaty teenage Skream (right) at a house party turned into the cover of the producer’s debut album and became one of the defining images of a whole scene.
Shards Ov Light is a soundtrack to Bloodworth’s film Forgemasters, the last in a series of shorts that documents ‘making’ in his home city of Sheffield – focusing on the steel industry and its artisan offshoots. Fellow Sheffield natives The Black Dog produced the score for the series, and the trio performed the soundtrack live at the posthumous premiere of Forgemasters.
While in recent years The Black Dog have released four volumes of The Sound of Sheffield EPs, that “use the sounds of the city to echo Sheffield’s heritage in creating electronic music”, Shards Ov Light is a different side to their home city, sidestepping metallic techno and track titles like Feral Electronics and heavy machinery artwork.
While Black Dog ambient releases are often punctured by a sense of dread – see 2010’s Music For Real Airports – Shards Ov Light is one of their most straight-up comforting listens. It’s a beatless 21-minute suite, with warm drones that evoke the German Konigsforst woodlands that have inspired Wolfgang Voigt’s GAS project, rather than the blackened factory walls of northern England.
Part One and Part Two take up the first 15 minutes, with a swirling, smudgy weightlessness and a barely-discernible amniotic sub-bass hum and gradually evolving strings and hints of decaying keys.
The four-minute Part Three is built on a simple isolated piano motif that could be a companion piece to a selection of tracks on Brian Eno’s Ambient 1 or 2, while the short closer is the most ‘industrial’ of the piece, albeit a gentle fizz and hiss you’d maybe have in the back of your head after clocking out at the foundry.