MP3: Shifted – “Coax”
Shifted arrived last year with Drained, an EP charged with a host of identity issues and a bare-bone allegiance to the ubiquitous influence of Berlin’s legendary Berghain nightclub and its osmosis effects on floor-curdling bass music transplants. The British producer seems to have taken his criticisms to heart, keeping frantically busy over the past twelve months with releases on Luke Slater’s Mote-Evolver and his own label, Avian, and surrounding his zero-frills, animal-brained techno rhythms with layers of evil-toned expansiveness. Shifted’s full-length debut, Crossed Paths, does more than enough to shake the criticisms of his early material and helps the Bristol-based producer toward establishing his place in UK techno.
It’s striking how little Shifted has managed to sonically compromise his initial intentions as a producer and how haunting the inhuman, ravenous charge fueling his productions can be when contrasted by Crossed Paths‘ lurking, boiler-room drones. On my first few times through the LP, the unrelenting 120-130 BPMs and chunky single-measure, single-chord synth loops felt almost maddeningly repetitive, but its a pace that becomes nightmarishly hypnotic after a few passes and gives the more patient and subtle textures near the record’s periphery some tense, looming significance. Crossed Paths inspired me to return to a couple records from the past couple years – Wicker & Steel from Perc and Feed Forward from Sandwell District, which share the album’s gothic primality and quaking darkness – and the comparison helps highlight Shifted’s frightful handle on subtlety.
Crossed Paths introduces its tracks’ atmospherics and gestating, breakneck loops with a delicacy that isn’t exactly indicative of their overall pace, but after the rhythms lock into place, Shifted gently shifts the textures around like he’s patiently working out a matrix of tiled puzzle-pieces. Centerpiece “Colour of the Fall” speeds along an amorphous, tin-foil synth texture and whirling heartbeat arpeggio before a single radar pulse is emanating in through diseased-colored fog. Somewhere along the way a watery moan of synths rises to bulge through the percussive gaps while distant reverberating hand drums beat along with the hobbling kick and we’re suddenly viewing the track from its opposite side. The drums become a singular force beneath coalescing tides, letting a track’s intricacies, embedded and phased through minor temporal and sonic shifts, arc into vivid ghostly ripples.
Crossed Paths‘ evocative album art does the record a bit of a disservice. The album’s tone is undeniably dark, no doubt, but unlike a few producers on the Modern Love roster, Shifted doesn’t filter everything through a malevolent, stewing monochrome, instead letting some inky primary bleed in to complicate the album’s emotional waypoints. There’s a dagger of what almost sounds like vocal “ohhhs” on “Coax” that seems to momentarily unburden the track of its trudging, hell-forest atmosphere and “Suffocate”‘s fluttering arpeggiated percussion would almost qualify as tropical if it weren’t for its sparse, apocalyptic surroundings. Shifted makes a number of unpredictable aesthetic choices that give the record a surprising amount of shelf life despite being almost stubborn in its willingness to reveal detail. Crossed Paths is an excellent debut from an artist that, nearly overnight, has managed to move on from his faceless beginnings to become an assured and promising new voice in British dance music.