Let’s be clear about this – decent techno is very, very hard to produce. We’ve all heard reams of whomp whomp that feel like it’s boshed together with a Future Music sample pack and an 808 plug in. There’s also a heap of that distorted fuzz stuff, which sounds like it’s shredding your speaker cone whilst lacerating your ear drums at the same time. Both of these camps have their merits indeed but, you know the really good stuff – the kind that inhabits that ghostly netherworld of part machine, part organic presence – that’s the stuff that definitely takes a Malcolm Gladwell 10,000 hours of practise to hone.
The desperately unpronounceable SHXCXCHCXSH certainly sit in this latter camp with ‘Linear S Decoded‘ a natural progression from 2013’s vowel dropping ‘Strgths‘. Where ‘Strgths’ often resorted to the mainstay thud of the kick drum, ‘Linear S Decoded’ delivers a compelling combination of melody, dark sweat box thump with a touch of breaks, spectral sound design and, for the most, properly spelt song titles.
And perhaps this is what the album title alludes to: The duo, feeling like they’ve decoded the magic formula amongst their machines, have decided it’s time to stop hiding behind the dropped vowels and release some properly next level stuff. And, crikey, they properly deliver on that last part – throwing them miles ahead from simply putting the !!! (CHK CHK CHK) into techno.
Linear S Decoded often juxtaposes a restrained, softened version of industrial experimentation with the kind of melancholically fragile twilight aesthetic Burial might conjure up. Check the subdued bass hum hovering in the background of ‘Wading Guise‘, the subaqueous pitch shifted effects and moody track structure.
‘Helicial Dialog’ batters the senses with a similar dystopian verve as Ani-i’s sublime Kino-i on Minimal Wave – a peak time moment where the dance floor shifts into an alternate perception, the walls start to breath and the sounds flood each neurotransmitter in your ever expanding bonce.
At times strident with obscure yet determinedly catchy hooks (‘The Hmming Raverie’), at others contemplative and uplifting, (‘Monolithic Conclusion‘), SHXCXCHCXSH have perfected a tricky match where melody crosses paths with the more exploratory side of techno.
There’s just the right hint of gloom which, coupled with highly inventive sound design and deft structural shifts, sees Linear S Decoded tread an innovative path that’s neither too dark, too fussy or overly esoterically abstruse. Thoroughly recommended.