- A wheezing mournfulness permeates SsSsSsSsSsSsSsSsSsSsSsSsSsSsSs, SHXCXCHCXSH's latest full-length for Shifted's Avian label. It's not from anything as specific as a set of compositional elements, but more of a general presence of noise and entropy. This quality isn't totally new for the Swedish group (who now live in Berlin). But while it can be heard seeping into 2013's STRGTHS, it didn't play the starring role that it does on this album. SHXCXCHCXSH have more or less jettisoned the colossal, ominous techno that makes up the bulk of their catalog, surrendering themselves to a creeping fuzziness. They bathe in it, soak it up and drink from it with a devotional intensity. Indeed, the first and last tracks are hushed and meditative, like opening and closing prayers.
The album's unwieldy titles accurately capture the endless permutations of smeared hisses and sandpaper swooshes that are the bedrock for these 15 productions. It's a stridently minimal sound in that regard—so minimal that it could slip into a kind of monochrome if not for the impressive variations in rhythmic construction, textural shading and style. SHXCXCHCXSH also know how to keep things moving. The longest track is nearly seven minutes, while six fall short of three.
Tracks two ("SsSs") and five ("SsSsSsSs") find the duo crafting dark, abstract ambient replete with choral voices that morph almost unrecognizably into icy, synthetic iridescence. Tracks nine ("SsSsSsSsSsSsSsSsSs") and ten ("SsSsSsSsSsSsSsSsSsSs") are also heavily abstracted, but SHXCXCHCXSH gut their muscular industrial synth lines and scatter the echo-stained remains across rumbling dark matter. Then at track 12 there's "SsSsSsSsSsSsSsSsSsSsSsSs," a leftfield piece that ditches the ambient techno spectrum all together, evoking instead the soundtrack of an early '80s fantasy flick that's been smudged into a strange, whirring blur.
There are also a handful of tracks that more exploratory DJs could mine for their propulsive traits. The tightly structured loop anchoring track 13 ("SsSsSsSsSsSsSsSsSsSsSsSsSs") contains just enough pulsating sway to get heads bobbing. Ditto for track six ("SsSsSsSsSsSs"), whose progressive synths ripple across pounding toms and metallic sputters and hums. But those pieces are most potent in their original habitat. SsSsSsSsSsSsSsSsSsSsSsSsSsSsSs boasts such a distinct internal logic and unified sensibility that communing with its haunted odes to entropy is an all or nothing experience.