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Shit and Shine
New Confusion Will Ainsley , October 10th, 2022 08:22

Sonic shock and awe, auditory rapid domination, and roiling low frequencies with the fluid power of a ballista, Shit and Shine’s New Confusion is a mangled collection of heavy magic and strange genre digressions clotted with sheer brilliance. Will Ainsley explains why

It’s on ‘Runnin’ Around’, the fifth track of Shit and Shine’s fifteenth album, New Confusion, where a disembodied voice spits out the phrase “I hate this fucking machine”. Although the album’s battery of sounds seem soaked and glossed and churned and cut using electronics (nothing of this material world could fully produce what’s heard here), there’s also a pervasive sense that Shit and Shine’s head honcho Craig Clouse is attempting to fight his tools, and they’re fighting back. Basslines seem almost to dig their heels in, veering between notes in resisting portamento. Stumbling rhythms get caught out by chopped-up and spat-out arrangements. The high frequency in ‘Park Road 1 - C’ recalls the ugly digital clipping that occurs when an output is forced to deliver a voltage higher than its capacity.

Spoken word samples like those on ‘Runnin’ Around’ pepper the album. The same fragments of information are regurgitated over the course of one song, like the cortex-curdling nadir of an embarrassing conversation that runs for hours through your head like a non-stop tickertape. ‘Annoyed’ features a computer-generated voice repeating “you’re angry or annoyed” (perhaps anticipating the future of online AI psychotherapy or customer service, who knows). ‘Cocoa Leaves’ uses exaggerated sit-com-y pronouncements from a scene between Christopher Lloyd and Danny Devito in the American program Taxi, and ‘Robbed’ slows down a strange soliloquy so it stretches and judders metallically.

Genres too are toyed with and interrogated. There’s blackened, pockmarked dub that belong in the same toolshed as Mick Harris’ HedNod project or Meatraffle’s pitch-shifted plastic workouts. Surf guitar makes a weird appearance in ‘Miami’, and the odd moments of double bass whose woody, muted, bow-wowing pluck and slide seems incongruous when squashed into the crumpled-sounding sonic palette. These puny voices and wonky genre entanglements stand in contrast to the huge, foghorn-esque brays that litter the album, achieving a kind of weaving-and-ducking badinage.

In 2021 Craig Clouse spoke to JR Moores for tQ about YouTube playing a role in his creative process, explaining that he searches out particular words around which to base tracks. He says if he’s “looking for vocal samples” he will “always go to YouTube and search the word ‘argument’”. It’s this sense of acrimony and bile that also pervades New Confusion. Clouse vents spleen on his machines, and textures queasily rub up against one another. The mighty bass warheads on ‘Annoyed’, ‘Cocoa Leaves’ and ‘Robbed’ squash percussion and melody lines into spluttering submission, flossing their teeth with any other instrumentation that flits into the periphery.

Indeed, such is the power of the tungsten-tipped, face-melting opener ‘Annoyed’, that even the subsequent tracks seem almost dragged into its wake, like the album comprises mostly one long jagged diminuendo and feedback after this first track’s fluid, driving power; it’s mighty and unstoppable like a herd of bison bearing down on the frozen steppe or Erling Haaland ferociously ploughing his way towards goal. Though little variations in that mighty three-note sequence in ‘Annoyed’ allow for occasional moments of ravey positivity and nervy glee, elsewhere, however, everything is a little more involved, like a knotty discussion after a bold opening statement. Shit and Shine’s New Confusion is a thoughtful dialectic that throws up many rewards.