In the seven years since they first appeared with their debut ‘RRRRGRRGRRR’ EP, mysterious cloaked Swedish duo SHXCXCHCXSH have emerged as one of the most distinctive outfits currently operating amongst the leftfield techno scene, their challenging deconstructed production arrangements being compared to the likes of Autechre.
‘Jarring’ and ‘jittery’ are two qualities that SHXCXCHCXSH do particularly well, and the overall intent of this fourth album ‘OUFOUFOF’ (the first on their own Rösten label) is best summed up by the following quote from their accompanying bio; “…the main focus (here) being our relationship with the dancers’ minds and how we do our best to fuck with them”. And fuck with them they do, the eight tracks collected here easily offering up the duo’s most rhythmically focused album yet, even if several of them sound like they were designed for aliens possessing more limbs than the average human.
While all of the tracks are apparently based around single rhythmic patterns, they frequently take time and focused listen to reveal themselves amongst the sensory overload of initially chaotic elements. What’s also particularly striking is the way in which the tracks here are completely composed of percussive elements, with a few rare exceptions. Opening track ‘OUFOUFOF’ drops the listener straight into the storm as clipped metallic percussion skips and stutters arrhythmically against stabs of humming reverb, the elements flickering in and out of the mix in a seemingly random fashion.
Like many of the tracks here, the recurrent patterns only eventually begin to reveal themselves as more elements are gradually introduced into the mix, the complex intricacy of the seemingly haphazard arrangements making more sense in this case when the corkscrewing digital timestretches slide in alongside the stapler-like percussion tics.
That said, there’s an overriding sense of the unfamiliar at work here – while ‘FFUFFUFU’ channels the buzzing bass-heavy menace of dark warehouse parties past, it feels like some alien AI has recontextualised the elements in a slightly wrong way, the rhythmic energy constantly threatening to launch forward, but instead constantly circling in upon itself as elastic sounding kicks judder in a constantly locked groove.
Elsewhere, ‘OFFOFFOF’ offers up the closest thing to a ‘straightforward’ dancefloor mover here, though in this case, the comparative regularity of the stuttering grimy rhythms is offset by the wildly pitchshifted melodic tones that spiral around them, seemingly constantly on the edge of being dragged into the void. As always, ‘OUFOUFOF’ sees SHXCXCHCXSH operating in a realm of their own – and it’s anyone’s guess where they’ll head next.