Shifted – Crossed Paths review

Shifted’s identity remains a mystery, but crucially, he does not come from the small coterie that has dominated UK techno over the past twenty years. Like the signature image he uses, a grey, shadowy creature creeping through a snowy forest, his infiltration of the sound has been stealthy and understated. In many ways, his lack of connection with techno, his automatic outsider status, has allowed him to effect an entrance into a hitherto new terrain.

Of more importance is the fact that his previous artistic endeavours  prepared him for his current incarnation and allows him to leave a lasting mark on it. Possessed with a sonic spatial awareness that seems informed in equal parts by dub’s spaciousness,  My Bloody Valentine’s blizzard of sound and the Cocteau Twins’ ethereal fragility, Shifted has brought a three-dimensional aspect to linear electronic music. Like his releases on Mote Evolver and his own Avian imprint, Crossed Paths tingles and fizzes with an atmospheric sensibility that monochrome techno often lacks. Each previous Shifted record has felt like a prelude for this album; while his previous EPs are robust, functional and display an intuitive understanding of techno mechanics, in each instance they have glimmered and glistened with an effusive otherworldliness, like the phosphorous flecks of green light that plankton emit on grey waves.

“Yearning”, with its wall of static interference, suggests that Shifted could easily make an album’s worth of droning soundscapes. But instead Crossed Paths provides a heightening of the sensibility explored on EPs for Mote Evolver and Avian, with the artist brilliantly articulating the interplay between the effervescent and the functional. This approach is audible on “Out Of Tune” where purist, reduced rhythms shine an acid-fuelled light through a sonic pea soup, its low end pulses guiding the track like a lighthouse steering a vessel from jagged rocks. “Bleeding Through” ramps up the tempo, but like the wiry, sinewy minimalism of “Relict”, subtle percussive ticks and microscopic clicks ensure that even when he’s operating at a club-focused tempo, his clearly identifiable tracks have a unique, lithe sensibility.

Shifted repeats the approach, albeit in a more fleshed out manner, on “Leather” and “Colour Of The Fall”, where heavy drums and thundering claps provide the rhythmic support for droning, ethereal tapestries and the hypnotic, influences that have emanated from outside the techno micro-verse. In other instances, this album shows Shifted’s ability to condense and distil a range of ideas and narratives into the space of a few minutes. On “Coax” a dreamy yet driving track finally gets the percussive ticks and slivers it is crying out for after a three-minute wait, while “Suffocate”, one of the heavier tracks on the album, moves from understated, linear rhythms into an explosion of claps and menacing sounds, introduced into the arrangement in the way a gale force wind forces dark clouds into a clear blue sky. All of this is made possible by his distinctive sound design; intricate and subtle, yet at the same time both functional and multi-faceted, where all of these divergent paths cross, you’ll find Shifted.

Richard Brophy


Tracklisting:

1. Yearning
2. Out Of Tune
3. Bleeding Through
4. Coax
5. Leather
6. Colour Of The Fall
7. Suffocate
8. Reflict
9. Lexis
10. More Static (Reduction)
11. Disconnected