Review: SHXCXCHCXSH - Linear S Decoded


No wonder Swedish duo SHXCXHCSSH has been much talked about in circles (despite the double whammy of having an unpronounceable name AND being anonymous), because they are that good.

'Linear S Decoded', out on Shifted and Ventress's Avian label, is such a delight to hear. From the first awakening light of 'Entering the S - Cloud', we are brought to the other, lesser known side of techno and a more melodic and musical shadow from its militant dance-centric brother. The entire album is delivered with a smooth and easy confidence that comes with a knowing that they have brought something unique to into this world.

As in this interview with Dazed Digital, the duo enlightens: "Grooves and soundscapes are what we work with the most. It’s what we are. The foundation. But this time, we wanted to get out of that brutalism that it often ends up like. Melodies can do things that nothing but melodies can do. I don’t know what that is, but whatever that is you don’t really need much of them. A little something is often enough for you to feel it."

Mood, texture and character shine in this album -- at times broody and at times uplifting, much like a time-lapse of a soundscape over different weather changes from sun and shine to cloudy and windy. The effects are modulated, almost muted like being underwater, so that the result is a sense of well-balanced calm. If uplifting, it is never to the point of ecstatic hyperbole. And if anything, there is only a gentle melancholia to the more down tempo tracks. Uncomplicated melodies, a continuing atmosphere of tape, hiss and dirt that is lo-fi, characterful and textural permeate the album to create something distinctive and cohesive.

This is clear to me in tracks such as 'The Roots' and the album's ended, 'Monolithic Conclusion'.

There are tougher tracks that won't sound out of place in a typical club setting. Tracks like 'Elocution', 'The Repelling of the Quantitative Invasion' and 'Rudimental Retreat' will provide breathing space and depth. The aquatic theme is present in track names like 'Wading Guise', 'The Under Shore' and 'Sub Mission - The Atlantic Vision' and comes through in the sound design. Of all, my favourite is 'Drain The Lord'.

I couldn't help but bring to mind a similar approach by other techno artist Recondite. Although vastly different in execution and use of texture and sound design for example, perhaps parallels can be drawn in the preference for subtly effective melodies with little embellishment.

Overall, an album that shows how a little goes a long way, compelling one to listen through without pause and appreciate a slow, steady and ultimately satisfying journey from beginning to end.

01. Entering The S-Cloud
02. Drain This Lord
03. Wading Guise
04. The Roots
05. Elocution
06. Helical Dialog
07. The Under Shore
08. The Repelling Of The Quantitative Invasion
09. A Sunny Day In Ostrogothia
10. Rudimental Retreat
11. This Hmming Raverie
12. Sub Mission – The Atlantic Vision
13. Monolithic Conclusion