‘Arrangements in Monochrome’ marks the first new music from Shifted since the release of his ‘Under a Single Banner‘ LP last year. The two EPs that make up ‘Arrangements’ are a vicious combination of relentless Berghain style techno and intricate sonic textures, that showcase some of the strongest and most ambitious music from the producer to date.
Since the first Shifted singles and EPs came out a few years ago, his music has followed a clear trajectory, from fairly standard 130 bpm minimal grooves into something much more conceptual and abstract. Debut album ‘Crossed Paths‘ excelled in mixing a murky post punk aesthetic with dark techno, exploring the common space between the two genres rather than just mashing them together.
‘Arrangements in Monochrome’ moves into a world of detailed sound design. Each track is built on a rich bed of subtle textures as much as monolithic beats. On opener ‘You’re a Replacement‘ a thick oscillating bass note is slowly buried in percussive fragments and noise. It’s a moment of suspension, the track feels like its pinning you down, any hints of a clear rhythm quickly disappearing before they can develop. The origins of the sounds – hardware, software, field recordings or whatever, are impossible to tell, and don’t matter as much as their cumulative effect.
One of the key differences between this and previous Shifted releases is the clarity of the production. The obscuring murk has been rolled back and now every hard surface can be felt directly. Whether it’s the glassy percussive hits of ‘6ft of Silence‘, the distorted, unintelligible voice on the second part of the title track, or a simple off beat hi-hat, each sound hits with a feeling as clear and immediate as cold concrete.
Dark, minimal techno hasn’t exactly been in short supply over the last couple of years. Shifted was one of the artists at the forefront when it started to explode, but as these EPs prove, he has more to offer than just being part of a fashionable aesthetic. At its core, ‘Arrangements‘ is still music designed for big PA’s in dark club basements. The key is that he continues to push the boundaries of what is expected of ‘dance’ music. The four to the floor kicks that dominate the album aren’t treated as an end in themselves, but a basis to twist, pull and experiment with.
Guy Brewer, the man behind Shifted, mentioned in a recent interview with Resident Advisor that he considers the Arrangements in Monochrome EPs a continuation of what he’d worked on for Under a Single Banner. However, they also experiment with some of the ideas from earlier in his discography. The new tracks showcase one of the subtle tricks he managed so effectively on the ‘Cold Light‘ EP, – making simple 4/4 beats somehow sound like they’re not repeating themselves. On the first part of Arrangements in Monochrome it’s done with brutal high end panning, while on ‘Entartung‘ its achieved with shifting echo on the percussion, manufacturing a constant sense of finger scraping unrest.
Shifted’s commitment to relentless, uncompromising sound is distinct, and as these EPs prove, the results are thrilling. There is a slight sense that they’re serving as a transition to the next Shifted full length, but their clarity and intensity is a reminder of the potential still held in dark, hard, techno.