Hailing from former industrial city Norrkoping, enigmatic cloak-wearing Swedish duo SHXCXCHCXSH have spent the last five years traversing the outer edges of the experimental techno sphere, releasing a trio of albums of Shifted’s Avian label. While there’s a sinister, often ritualistic feel to their stripped back, distressed yet highly refined productions, what’s really marked them out has been the duo’s keen grasp of light and shadows.
It’s something that definitely continues on this latest 12” EP ‘Rosten 1’, the inaugural release on the duo’s new Rosten imprint. Throughout there’s a sense of thematic arc being traced on the four tracks that make up this EP. ‘Stamma #1’ opens proceedings by dropping a distorted 4/4 kickdrum pulse that pretty much doesn’t change for the ensuing six minutes, building a sense of implacably mechanical momentum as the monotonous rhythm gets intertwined with layers of distorted crackle and half buried snares snap away.
Indeed, there’s a sense of standing next to some relentlessly cycling machinery more than anything else, the entire track building a feeling of momentum that’s as hypnotic as it is distinctly unsettling. ‘Stamma #2’ gets even creepier, placing horror-movie chords over a flexing backbone of shuffling techno rhythms before phased synthetic ripples rise into the foreground, in what’s easily one this EP’s more shimmering and glossy moments. Elsewhere ‘Stamma #3’ sees the dancefloor bpms reaching their peak as ominous treated vocal harmonies add a sense of atmosphere that’s equal parts cult-like and rave-tinged, as pulsing alarm-like tones add a sense of urgent drama and broken glitchy textures coat the kickdrums like a layer of crackling ice.
Finally, while ‘Stamma #4’ offers a sense of comedown, dropping the bpms down in favour of a midtempo crawl through dry, rattling rhythms, it’s anything but a respite from the darkness as distorted textures crackle eerily against rippling bass tones and creepy wavering synth vox, the entire track calling to mind the rhythmic cycling of breath more than anything else. Another characteristically enigmatic and intriguing release from SHXCXCHCXSH that bodes well for the duo’s new Rosten imprint.