- Though their name sounds like a piss-take on contemporary techno (try saying it out loud), the music that SHXCXCHCXSH make is deadly serious. The Swedish duo have found a perfect home in Avian, Shifted and Ventress's outlet for the innumerable shades of black they're constantly coming up with. Over seven tracks, SHXCXCHCXSH build dark and winding tracks that feel meatier than your average techno banger. But this duo isn't as interested in the suffocating bleakness Avian usually delivers—STRGTHS is more like looking through a greyscale kaleidoscope, dynamic and ever-shifting.
It takes a while to get to anything resembling techno. Opener "SLVRBBL" is a grainy collage pocked by bursts of noise. "LTTLWLF," meanwhile, is a slice of chilly gothic horror where an eerie string melody gets pummeled by a nasty broken beat. It's not until "RSRRCTN" that we're given a straight beat, but this one sounds like it's underwater, buried deep under hazy reverb and thick atmospherics.
Even SHXCXCHCXSH's most straightforward moments, like "PCTSTSS," feature strange psychedelic effects that add wrinkles of texture to their rich soundscapes. Through obsessive manipulation and intricate layering, their music transcends the booming kick drums and droning melodies that have come to define their own sector of blackened techno in the past few years.
What's always stood out about SHXCXCHCXSH is their ability to make techno that feels more narrative than repetitive, and this is what makes STRGTHS a gripping listen. It's most evident on the striking ten-minute closer "LLDTMPS," which starts out like a Dettmann banger, tightly wound and frigid, before gradually imploding into a sensual dub techno swirl. The softened, almost gaseous textures that close the album are the antithesis to everything that came before—from the cutting distortion through to the heavy thudding and piercing synths—but it's a suitable ending for an album that feels determined to do something different.