You could say producer, composer, drummer and instrumentalist Oscar ‘SHOLTO’ Robertson has always operated under the radar. He was part of the indie/r&b stompers Hidden Charms who in 2015/16 looked set to break through on the back of a series of banging singles and an LA placement with the legendary producer Shel Talmy (yes The Kinks and The Who etc). Once stateside Robertson also linked up with Nick Waterhouse (Allah-Las) before a return to London which saw him form soundscape makers Sunglasses For Jaws. Add to this collaborating with the influential neo-soul innovator Inflo, drumming and producing for Miles Kane plus writing/playing with the Dan Carey hyped Sinead O’Brien, and you get a hint of the level of Oscar Robertson’s restless creative drive.
Now comes the next phase as SHOLTO looks to step out of the shadows as a solo artist. Since last year, he’s streamed a series of four tracks (Twin Flames, Honey and Wine, Bash’s Theme and Paulette) which stir together his heady influences into a blend of soul-tastic orchestral funk and jazz expansionism. Foundations laid, SHOLTO now looks set to push on further, scaling things up to another level with the release of a new ep ‘The Changing Tides of Dreams’ on Root Records.
Robertson talks the EP in terms of ‘departures’ and ‘letting go old ways’, music to make space for ‘new dreams’ and a ‘sense of calmness’. So the rhythms are supportive, guitars (largely) absent and the orchestration in full flow as SHOLTO explores this new direction from John Barry/Axelrod starting points. ‘The Changing Tides of Dreams’ title track lays down the marker with sky-gliding strings that hover and twist between Balkan balladry and Bollywood grandeur. There’s a new age penchant in the chimes, watery sounds, fluttering piano and loose percussion as the track dips its toe into the soundtrack flow.
From here SHOLTO’s confidence and playfulness in pursuing what he senses as more ‘delicate’ music increases. Vampire swoops in on a swirl of cosmic violins and synths then slides away as the bows quiver and ghosting vocals coo. In between these points the tune goes widescreen with a wave of orchestral lushness that rolls over some funky bassline locomotion. Open top Alfa Romeos slaloming around a coastline panorama never seem far away in a track that also glimpses shadows of Andrew Hill. Lucid State brings a slightly different pitch but similarly aims to soothe. Less arranged it unwinds to an easy going LA/Leaving records vibe bubbling with keys, bird song and twinkling piano hooks, all tucked up in a jaunty rhumba rhythm.
Elsewhere SHOLTO’s explorations signpost more vividly where his music might be taking him. The Pleasure Principle comes electronically charged with those spacey eighties drum rolls and the dream-wave synth string cascade. There’s a swirling psychedelia about it all, topped by dubby flute effects, a Khruangbin easy beat and a sprinkling of random sonic fragments. This sound collagist approach is even stronger in the fabulously unpredictable Over The Sky where celestial harps, tidal strings and a time -keeping vibraphone lead to one conclusion, whereas the light jazz swing leads to another. Plus SHOLTO conjures tempo shifts from a mid-tune improv implosion before winding down this intriguing take on sci-fi lounge. What the seamlessness and surprise of this music tells us is that there’s much more invention to come from SHOLTO.
Fittingly ‘The Changing Tides of Dreams’ closes with The Pearl That Glitters, an orchestral tune forged in classic soundtrack styling. Here the plush Mancini opening eases into a brisk old soul rhythm track, complete with rubbery bass and the briskest of hi-hat ticks, until those heart-aching strings get pulled once more. The track maybe leaves you wondering where it might have gone if allowed to stretch out a little more but there’s always next time. Given the detailing and dedication that underpins this fine EP, more soundtracks with the SHOLTO touch must and surely will happen.
Get your copy of ‘The Changing Tides of Dreams‘ by SHOLTO from Root Records HERE