Techno is a beast of many faces, and most of them look mean as hell. When you’re on the dancefloor of your local techno bunker, being tossed around by a relentless marathon of kick drum, it can feel as if you're only coming up for breath when there is a tease of melody. The slightest rattle can feel gargantuan; a thing of macabre beauty that knocks you off-pace, as you struggle to lock it in your memory bank: “I have to remember this synth line, it’s perfect.” Linear S Decoded, the new LP from Swedish duo SHXCXCHCXSH for Shifted and Ventress’ Avian label, which we’re pleased to bring you the exclusive premiere of, creates a full-bodied listen from this often fleeting moment.
While their first LP, STRGTHS, saw SHXCXCHCXSH takes an almost psychedelic bend on techno – painting everything black in the Avian style, then swirling licks of white into the mix to create its own, warped grey scale – Linear S Decoded sees them at their most melodic and narrative to date, by shaving techno’s brutalism into swirling husks. We caught up with the elusive pair to talk about techno, melody, and what they mean to each other.
So, SHXCXCHCXSH, what does it mean?
SHXCXCHCXSH: It is what it is, there’s nothing more to it than that. It’s pronounced with x’s, like in Catalan. The rest like in normal language.
This is a potentially loaded question, but how would you describe your sound?
SHXCXCHCXSH: The answer is loaded with s’s and h’s and x’s and c’s, and many more of them.
How did you come to release on Avian, and what about the label speaks to what you’re working on?
SHXCXCHCXSH: We released our first EP there (checking Discogs, oh, already…) in November 2012, then our first album last summer and another EP earlier this year. We believe Guy (of Avian) heard our release on the Spanish label Subsist, and asked us to make one for Avian. Avian felt great because Avian had a clear vision about where they were going. We were very attracted by that.
What I've really enjoyed about the album is how melodies feel buried: they're teased at, rather than unleashed.
SHXCXCHCXSH: 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.
Who’s work do you find inspiring, be it in techno, house, or even outside music?
SHXCXCHCXSH: The only direct source of musical inspiration that part of us felt working on the album was Al Green. Except that, it was ideas from all over. An important thing came from listening to albums, pop albums especially, namely a simplicity and that sense of melody. We felt we didn’t have to make 11 min loose meditations. We could just make more like 3-minute songs and still be what we are.
What is the techno scene like in Sweden? I find that much of the day-to-day inspiration for artists comes from their local club scene, and I’m curious as to what it's like for you.
SHXCXCHCXSH: We’ve been living in Norrköping for the past 2 and a half years now. The techno scene there doesn’t really exist. But, we agree. Inspiration often comes from the club you go to every weekend, and that’s why Norrköping was the best place to work. We already knew what we wanted to do. No interfering clubs. Just us, our ideas and our friends, who are all doing different things. Half of us just moved back to Stockholm and is also wondering, “What has changed in the past three years?” and, actually, it looks damn good. There are a lot of people in the scene doing things at the moment, both on the darker side of things, and on the sunnier one, too.
You recently played the Berlin Atonal festival. How would you describe your live show, and how is it developing in line with the vision of the album?
SHXCXCHCXSH: When we play live, we play for the floor. It’s quite uncomplicated. It develops more with change of hardware rather than a release, actually.
Is this set something that's in further development for your live show in London in late September?
SHXCXCHCXSH: It will be very different because of some hardware changes, yes!
Linear S Decoded is out on 9 September, pre-order here.