What We Held On To


Zach Saginaw’s releases as Shigeto are more than just pieces of music—they’re chapters, carefully laid building blocks of a narrative that spans the artist’s increasingly impressive body of work. Building a sonic bridge between the Semi-Circle EP and the upcoming Full Circle full-length, Shigeto’s What We Held On To EP is the next installment in the artist’s ongoing treatise on his family’s troubled history, as well as a free taste of what’s to come from the prolific Brooklyn producer.

What We Held On To is both simpler and heavier than its predecessor, with Shigeto paring his tracks down to their essentials and adding a dollop of blown-speaker low end; it’s also a bit more melancholy, owing to the addition of a few elegantly disheveled vocal samples and liberal use of piano. “After She Smokes” matches a sinister metallic “shhhing!” (Swords colliding? Knives sharpening?) to an elegiac singing voice and a series of swelling synths—certainly one of Shigeto’s prettiest moments—while “Bitter Sweet”’s stuttering boom-clap and machine-like hums alternate with more doe-eyed vocals and a touch of understated bossa-nova cool. The EP’s second half is darker than the first, as the overdriven digital menace of “What We Held On To” leads into “Grandma’s Words / Rise Out of the Stone”, a two-part invocation of Saginaw’s grandmother’s experience as a Japanese-American during the horrors of WWII.

The central mystery with What We Held On To, of course, is the title’s unspecified “what”: what exactly, we’re meant to wonder, did they hold on to? As Shigeto moves steadily toward his full-length debut, he’s been holding on to his family history, bringing that chapter of his musical mission to a close; he’s also holding on to his grandmother’s upright piano (the moody chords of which appear throughout the EP), her last remaining worldly possession after her internment in the US. What We Held On To represents the final piece of Shigeto’s longstanding obsession; on Full Circle, his upcoming full-length, the young producer finally lets go.



What We Held On To, released on Ghostly International on July 20, 2010.
©℗ Ghostly International

Written and produced by Zachary Shigeto Saginaw
Recorded in Greenpoint
Artwork by Michael Cina

GI-119, Ghostly International, Steaming, WAV/MP3 download

01. Spring Textures
02. After The Smoke
03. Bitter Sweet
04. What We Held On To
05. Grandma’s Words / Rise Out Of The Stone


See also


Full Circle
The début album from Shigeto

Is it half the experience of Full Circle?