If the relatively recent trend towards more Industrial sounding Techno can tell us anything it’s that noise has been welcomed back into electronic music fans palletes again. One of the reasons given by a few critics for this re-found love of noise; although in my opinion it’s a bit of a stretch, is due to the economic downturn leaving clubbers yearning for a grittier sound. They want something to fit the doom and gloom of the various disillusionments of the day. The much discussed genesis of Techno from the unemployed and oppressed African Americans in Detroit re-appropriating the sound of machines also fits this narrative. On the other hand Techno has always been incredibly abstract and Under a Single Banner is a perfect example of this. In the LP Shifted manages to get rid of narrative baggage whilst still maintaining a noisy, dense and challenging aesthetic.
To call something dreadful is usually an incredible insult but I’d want to manipulate that term to describe Shifted’s music in a positive way. To state it in simpler terms its music that’s filled with layers of dread. This is dark and brutal music (the sirens used on the title track sound like they’ve come straight out of Silent Hill!) Even the obligatory ambient opener Core of Stone leans away from lush Eno-esque ‘interesting as it is ignorable’ ambience to a loud spectral resonant buzz. It’s all very un-ignorable music. While Shifted never exactly produced uplifting music, this album highlights him at his bleakest. The release fits well on Bed of Nails with its opened armed embrace of a more experimental sound.
The LP can be paradoxically described as both monochromatic and diverse at the same. The variety of booming bass-drums is impressive especially considering the tight sonic focus. Yet with this tight focus comes a lack scope. Shifted never strays into territory other than rusty urban greys which some may be disappointed with. Crossed Paths had tracks that could stand alone confidently from the LP whereas here the albums consistency prevents any track straying too musically far away. It should go without saying but there are no melodies to be found in here.
This ought to be lauded however as it allows the percussion to come into its own. Rhythm is at the heart of Techno and its Shifted’s greatest craft. Pulse Incomplete pairs an almost Gabber like moan with Spastik beats whereas Contract 0 the track most likely to be described as a ‘banger’ keeps a relentless pace whilst various sounds flicker in and out. All of this works together to abstractly convey a gruelling and rewarding sound. It’s all very heavy going and certainly won’t be easy to the hedonist who views Techno as a party, for those willing to invest Shifted’s music shines bleakly bright.
‘Under A Single Banner’ will be released on November 25th via Bed of Nails. Pre-order here.