The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website

Reviews

Shifted
Under A Single Banner Albert Freeman , November 27th, 2013 07:46

The renewed fusion between the industrial and techno communities in the past couple of years isn't the first time such a flirtation has occurred. In the 90s Regis was collaborating with Robert Görl of DAF, and Nitzer Ebb, Throbbing Gristle, Cabaret Voltaire and others have long been staples in the sets of techno's more adventurous DJs. But the extent to which the areas are joined now feels remarkable even by historical standards. Longtime noise artist Dominick Fernow has emerged with new aliases, primarily Vatican Shadow, that are increasingly committed to techno, and likewise Regis' label Downwards has signed significant talents – Samuel Kerridge, Cut Hands, OAKE - whose mission it seems is to muddy the waters further. Techno has also started to attract its own newer wanderers - and chief amongst them is Shifted, a producer whose broadening sound now makes an appearance on Fernow's Bed of Nails imprint.

Considering his deep roots in the drum & bass scene - particularly the more minimalist, darker end occupied by Source Direct and Photek - it's no surprise that the still-unnamed producer would be attracted to these ideas. His Covered in Sand project on the Mira sublabel of Avian hinted at his roots in its halftime, 150+ BPM structure, while its flip tellingly featured a remix by Vatican Shadow. For someone who admitted that his earliest released techno tracks were essentially derivatives of contemporary styles, Shifted has come remarkably far in a short time. His first album, Crossed Paths, released last spring on Mote-Evolver, showed the first flourishes of something special in its intense, metallic sheets of noise and piercing rhythmic constructs. It was still very much a straightforward record, though, and it's only recently that his music has started to become more developed - in parallel with the emergence of Avian as one of techno's most closely-watched labels.

With his pair of The Cold Light EPs, it was clear that even in his more techno-oriented mode his ear was now wandering. The music remained functional, but there was a deeper, more searching aspect to it in structure and execution, and its backbone had lost some of its rigidity and razor-sharp rhythmic edge. His recent remixes have hinted at a duskier palette, but even by these measurements Under A Single Banner is a marked departure from past efforts: a thoroughly atmospheric take on Shifted's earlier sound that doesn't sacrifice its hardness.

The album's title is very apparently quite literal: by embracing a number of influences from outside the purist techno idiom, Shifted has succeeded in broadening his palette without abandoning the format. It contains only a trio of tracks that look squarely at the dancefloor – 'Suspended Inside', 'Pulse Incomplete', and 'Contact 0' – but the amount of progress he's made in thickening and carefully layering his productions is remarkable for such a short short time. Careful mixing of relatively static loops creates the illusion of much more happening than in fact is, and new textural elements, like the tendrils of feedback or the Vatican Shadow-esque melody in closer 'Wash Over Me', create an album of varied tonal character.

If Under A Single Banner's hazy portions are indeed thick with detail, where it hits, it doesn't hold back. 'Suspended Inside' runs typewriter percussion through decaying reverb and delay, slowly building and fading into walls of textured noise while off-centre bass propels it forwards. 'Pulse Incomplete' is even better, with a pneumatic pound nagged on by insistent, percolating percussion - it's a piece of impressively executed purist techno. Even here the corrosive sound palette is evident, but nearly everywhere else it takes centre stage, and the tracks come out the stronger for it. 'Burning Tyres', the longest track, is the album's tour-de-force, a sprawling mass of indecipherable vocal mutterings, carefully panned percussion programming, and overdriven pads that screech into the red and recede, only to cycle back to even greater intensity.

The stylistic shifts Shifted has taken of late are sure to invite comparisons to the likes of Vatican Shadow and recent Downwards releases. It's unlikely that even Shifted himself would deny these cross-currents, which clearly run both ways – Under A Single Banner is released on Dominick Fernow's Bed of Nails label for a reason – but given his persistent naming of esoteric electronic and drone producers as influences, it seems that he and his peers are drawing at least as much from the same forebears as they are from each other. He isn't trying to hide any of this, though, and Under A Single Banner is a highly literate and highly listenable full-length, where the sources of inspiration - whether obvious or not - have been synthesised into a whole greater than the sum of its parts.

If you love our features, news and reviews, please support what we do with a one-off or regular donation. Year-on-year, our corporate advertising is down by around 90% - a figure that threatens to sink The Quietus. Hit this link to find out more and keep on Black Sky Thinking.