UK born and now Berlin-based, since Guy Brewer first emerged under his Shifted alias in 2011 with his debut ‘Drained’ EP on Luke Slater’s Mote-Evolver label, it seems like he’s gone to great lengths to distance himself from his earlier work as one half of drum and bass duo Commix, instead focusing on building a reputation for hard, intricately textured techno atmospheres. He’s prolific too, with this latest album on Dominick Fernow’s Hospital Productions label ‘Appropriation Stories’ offering up his third longplayer in just five years. While this latest album sees Brewer continuing to shift further away from the more straightforward techno arrangements of his earlier work, in many senses it represents more of an acknowledgement of his musical roots.
While classic breakbeats form the majority of the original source material for the ten tracks collected here, they’ve been so digitally processed and reshaped into new textural elements that you’d be hard pressed to recognise them amidst these stripped down and techno centred arrangements. ‘Flatlands’ gives a good illustration of the sorts of post-techno territory that Brewer’s exploring here, with much of this album coming across in distinctly monochromatic shades, with barely a hint of melodic elements or colour in evidence. Instead the emphasis falls upon relentless momentum, with the monotonous interplay between rumbling sub-bass, flickering digitally treated textures and rattling percussive tones taking on a hypnotically ebbing flow of its own, only for spidery 4/4 rhythms to lock in halfway, lending an extra sense of propulsive heft to the gliding rush of textural sound.
By comparison, ‘Life Backwards’ lurks ominously, slowly building up dark atmosphere like a gathering thundercloud as clicking bass tones cycle against a wash of ominous background ambience and droning tones, before a percussive bass pulse begins to gradually shift towards the foreground, grounding the swirling atmospheres and glitchy loops as the emergence of an ominously sustained drone heightens the sense of dread. ‘Watchers’ meanwhile sees a jittering morse code-like pulse clinging tightly to an undercarriage of throbbing bass as staccato metallic tones chatter away and distorted ripping noises unfurl in the foreground.
It’s closing track ‘The Faintest Trace, The Quietest Whisper’ though that offers up what’s easily this album’s most sublime moment, as a languid backdrop of dubby bass and flickering loose rhythms is gradually overtaken by the sound of field recorded rain, the additional of tangible earthly elements giving the sense of the listener exiting the shadowy landscapes conjured here and re-emerging into the real world. All up, ‘Appropriation Stories’ is a spectacular collection that could easily be Brewer’s most mature work under his Shifted alias so far.