The second half of the last decade saw the once-prolific engine of UK techno mired in some measure of limbo. Productions from the likes of Surgeon and Regis sputtered to a near-halt, and attention switched to the fledging German movement spearheaded by Berlin’s Ostgut-Ton and the now-colossal yore of the Berghain nightclub. The impact of these institutions was - and continues to be - profound. In its no-frills update of venerable, stripped-back, heavy-hitting 4/4s, Berlin techno sent shockwaves rippling through the scene, stirring British dancefloor giants such as Luke Slater and James Ruskin from their slumber.
Then came the new English wave: similarly galvanised by the Berghain sound, but boasting compositions alloyed with outsider sensibilities: Blawan’s heaving, ‘bass music’-rooted warehouse funk; the displaced junglist vibes of Instra:mental; the slate-grey industrial abrasiveness championed by the company of Furesshu, Truss and Shifted. This latter crop of producers proudly sport the legacy of UK industrial on their dingy factory sleeves, and in doing so, perpetuate arguably the most rooted and time-honoured take on their native techno yet.
Crossed Paths stands as the first proper full-length of this family. Its maker, Shifted, debuted at the start of 2011 with his Drained EP, an effort less unique for its musical worth than its accompanying mystery over the artist’s identity: his promo shot consists of no more than a shadowy silhouette stalking through snowed foliage. Like the image, his exploration of techno has been stealthy, understated, yet swift: in the past year, each successive Shifted release has seen the producer come into his own, increasingly pushing sonic coherence to the collection of bleak, post-punk visuals amassed on his tumblr and reinforcing his overall alignment with the industrial aesthetic. It culminates in a clincher of a long-player that completes his move from fresh-faced non-distinction to established force in British techno.
Listening to the record is akin to undertaking a journey through the City: criss-crossing its latticed paths in an engulfing matrix of whirling, gestating machines; their gears and cogs shuddering with supernatural, otherworldly ambience. Indeed, Shifted’s marked improvement has much to do with spatial awareness: each track here foments layer upon layer of expansiveness gleaned from his interpretations of dub, noise and shoegaze methods. The effect is one of looming atmospheric malevolence; Gothic in its stewing viscerality and darkness. And at its core is an intuitive understanding of Techno mechanics - at least the fiercely monochrome side of it. Robust, quaking beats and lithe, single-chord synths; unrelenting in repetition and packing superhypnotic tension: these songs extend Techno’s advocating search for the perfect loop.
Powered by life-force drawn from electronic bitstreams connecting Berlin and old-school techno with English industrial, Shifted burrows beneath the future-shock debris to unearth refreshed geometry from the City’s original ground plans. Crossed Paths forsakes modern-day Techno’s commonplace requirement for ‘forward-thinkingness’, and gifts us instead with a slab of beauty/archaeology, rehashed and brought to bear by a veritable craftsman of antiquity.