Following on from Stanislav Tolkachev last week, we have another pair of illusive techno artists in our midst – this time the hooded paid from Sweden SHXCXCHCXSH!
Save the date – 1st October, as SHXCXCHCXSH will be performing a live set for our Meat Free MORD Records Showcase, alongside Bas Mooy, Stanislav Tolkachev, Sleeparchive (live), Tripeo, UVB, Zadig and the Meat Free DJs. Can’t wait.
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Now it’s no secret that SHXCXCHCXSH are just that – incredibly secretive. We’ve done our best to dig up the angles on them through their musical output, we hope you enjoy the ride!
1. Let’s get the burning question out the way first – how on earth is SHXCXCHCXSH pronounced? You’re not the only one to wonder. There’s even a reddit thread on it. Suggestions include ‘I think you just make the sound of crumpling up paper and call it a day’ and ‘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. So basically the name is supposed to sound like white noise.’
If that wasn’t good enough, you can have it from the horses’ mouth in their second ever interview:
How do you guys suggest pronouncing your name?
The Hs are silent. Except that, you do it like it’s written. ‘
Does that help everyone out? We thought not!
2. So, do you want to know how their first interview went with Juno? Let’s just say, they submitted a mix to them, and Juno had this to say:
“The mix has been a near constant on the Juno Plus office stereo since we received it; however, attempts to engage SHXCXCHCXSH in further dialogue were met with short shrift with the following cryptic message their sole response:
“Shshsc cksdkd lcjlklks shh shdxx xhjxjs xkkhxs skskhc xksssghshs xgsgsgxh hsjjs shx shxhjhs jhhxx jxx sjxkkls xls slxklx sxkxklls lxll s xlxks mmmmx sxsnns xkls x dcsxv sdll xlcc ss xx zzx sxx xxxxxs x sxxhxsxxhz zzxx sxsxhx xhxhx shxx hx sh sxch sxxls kksx skx xksl s stgtgts xxs s sgts sgsss zxsccs sxs sxs sxxx s x sx ssst sgggsts sss s shhstgtsss s zz s z sx szszszs szxs x stxggts shhhhh s shkkk skkkks sxss s x xhhx xsx s s xxxx shx x shxxss shs zzzz x zzzzz xzzzzz zzzzz zxzzzxxxzzz zzzzz zz zzxzzzz zz zzzzzzzz z zzzzzz”
Yep. Here’s that mix tho – it’s quality! Listen in around the 40 min mark for total destruction!
3. Let’s talk about Sweden. Sweden, the land of free education! A land largely considered as progressive particularly on issues such as the environment (renewable energy sources account for 48% of Swedish energy production – with only 1% of waste going to landfill), and equality (homosexual relations have been legal since 1944, and same sex couples have been able to adopt since 2003 and get married since 2009.)
There are 9.9 million people in Sweden, of whom about 2 million are under the age of 18. To put that into context, the population of London is 8.7 million, and the population of greater Manchester is 2.55 million. It’s the land that gave us Abba and Avicii, Spotify, and Skype. It’s also the land that gave us the duo SHXCXCHCXSH.
Now to the mouth of the river Motala ström, an inlet of the Baltic Sea to the east of Sweden, and to the medieval city of Norrkoping, where SHXCXCHCXSH’s studio resides. You’ll find rather perversely that this place is known as “The Manchester of Sweden” because of its historical role in the paper and textile industries. Norkopping has many features – the Motala river running through it, and the Himmelstalundsvägen – ancient rock carvings that date to the Nordic Bronze Age. However one thing it really doesn’t have is a techno scene.
In a rare, recent interview with Fact Mag, SHXCXCHCXSH had this to say about their surroundings –
“Everyone needs some sort of inspiration and feedback to know what to do, so talk about isolation is quite relative” … “We have different periods, some when we’ve been in the middle of it, like spending all weekends in the club and on Discogs in the week. But over the past few years we have been more isolated from the scene, and that’s good for the creativity, it makes it easier to focus. Also the Swedish climate is dope for this, there’s not much sunshine flirting with us outside, making us feel bad about ourself not going out – we can just sit inside and do our thing.”
4. To the music! Time to take you on a wild and wonderful adventure through the SHXCXCHCXSH catalogue. Let’s start with the first two EPs they dropped, both in 2012. The first is the RRRRGRRGRRR EP, released on a Spanish label called Subsist, who’ve got a large roster of artists worth checking out, along with some Meat Free faves – Jeroen Search and Stanislav Tolkachev. The Swedes really went in for the onomatopoeia on their first foray – have a listen :
Next up is their other 2012 release NMHNMHNMNMH, this time on HEM, a small Swedish label. Here SHXCXCHCXSH venture more into the dubby, mesmerising side of techno, but still with a definite air of menace to it.
5. Avian, run by Guy Brewer (also known as Shifted) and Ventress becomes SHXCXCHCXSH’s home for the next three fruitful years, where they release not 1, not 2 but 3 albums. Their first in 2013 is STRGTHS, which has an altogether different feel from the EPs mentioned previously. It was a big deal at the time, for reasons explained best by Juno who SHXCXCHCXSH had clearly mystified back in 2013 as much as they do us today!
“The Avian label has firmly established itself as a potent force in contemporary techno since it was founded by Shifted and Ventress in late 2011 with a singular sonic and visual aesthetic, ensuring a palpable sense of excitement and expectation attached to whichever artist from the small roster of Avian artists stepped forward to deliver the label’s first full length album. That the honour has been handed to SHXCXCHCXSH with the soon to drop STRGTHS LP adds a further element of intrigue thanks to the lack of discernible information regarding the allegedly Swedish pair.”
It is indeed a meticulously crafted album, and we strongly advise a dedicated listen through (and, if you want to buy it, head here). Richard Brophy hit the nail on the head when he said:
“Each track on the album is a journey, not in the sense of some pseudo-mystical happening that cliché-ridden DJs always waffle on about providing their audiences with, but rather an experience where the listener does not know what is going to happen from one bar to the next.”
For glitching, atmospheric bordering on ethereal track:
For the industrial, raw track:
For the nearly 12-minuter that doesn’t anything like how it started:
6. Ready for album number 2? There’s good news, we’ve hit words for this one! Linear S Decoded dropped in was met with much critical acclaim, and spans everything from ambient-atmospheric vibes right up through to the gritty, big room tracks. It’s noticeably more melodic than STRGTHS, almost with a hint of promise that comes through that maybe didn’t before. Pitchfork favour it in these terms:
“Linear S Decoded is a rare album that allows you to wallow in the techno muck and come out feeling vitalized.”
There’s one other thing you should know about this album, and that’s that SHXCXCHCXSH had a pretty rudimental way of constructing it.
“We met every Thursday and made a new track until there was 13 of them.”
Curious? Well don’t worry – you can listen to the entire thing right here – whooooaaa!
(and if you want to buy it, head here).
7. Let’s take a break from the albums for a minute, and segue to SHXCXCHCXSH’s live set. They’ll be performing a live-set for us on 1st October; expect some hooded analogue evilness to be going down – in a good way! Noémie Barbier is one lucky soul who has already seen them live – she had this to report:
“SHXCXCHCXSH stand out of the crowd for the opacity of an industrially crude techno and for the mystical aura emerging from their artwork and stage performances. Back-breaking kicks, poisonous acid lines , the listening of SHXCXCHCXSH is not restful at all; we just stay there, astonished before the anatomy of their work, techno music in its birth-suit, sober and without artifice.”
8. SHXCXCHCXSH despite a protected identity aren’t totally shy on the mix front (good for us!). If you’re looking for something to get into, we’d recommend the Resident Advisor 430 Podcast to first get your teeth into. RA managed to get a few words from the shadowy Swedes on their mix:
“We wanted a certain atmosphere, something that evolves and is not the same linear thing for an hour, so we threw in loads of different stuff from all around to see what would come out. We didn’t have the floor in mind when making it, but the groove was still very important. We didn’t wanna go far off in ambient land.”
The next mix we’d advise (other than the Juno one mentioned previously) has, unlike the RA mix, a tracklist. It’s SHXCXCHCXSH’s mix for Secret 13 “a tightly weaved selection, accurately picked and compiled with intense bursts of futurist energy that give way to ambient melancholia, neo-tribal organic pulsations or noirish bass undercurrents.” – 24 tracks – go!
9. Time to talk about that last album. If you’d been fooled into thinking that SHXCXCHCXSH’s anaphylaxis for vowels was reaching an end, then think again. 2016 is the year of the sibilance. If there’s one thing we can say about this album, it does make for a very pleasing album cover and tracklist for those with OCD.
Perhaps time to manoeuvre an about turn on the productions from SHXCXCHCXSH we’ve heard so far – RA have this to say:
“SHXCXCHCXSH have more or less jettisoned the colossal, ominous techno that makes up the bulk of their catalog, surrendering themselves to a creeping fuzziness. They bathe in it, soak it up and drink from it with a devotional intensity.”
XLR8R comment that this album has “a tonal consistency that runs throughout, defined by grainy drones, creaky keyboards, synthetic choirs and a variety of distorted scrapes, thumps and wheezes. Tune in closer though, and it’s clear that the duo is doing a lot with that handful of elements, largely in service of creating a mood—one that can sometimes be unsettling, at other times comforting.”
So, are you ready for another full album, that you can stream for free? We thought so!
(and if you want to buy it, head here).
10. Now, there have been many rumours circulating about SHXCXCHCXSH so I’m sure one more won’t hurt. Will you witness jedis in our midst on 1st October? There’s only one way to find out. If the hoods don’t come off, we’re sure the gloves will at the very least.
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Penned by Lucy Ironmonger of Meat Free.
1 : Featured image photo credit: http://www.clubberconfession.com/shxcxchcxsh-dark-techno-svedese
2 : Photo credit: https://vimeo.com/109912532
3 : Photo credit : http://www.fangirlquest.com/travel/norrkoping-light-festival-a-good-walk-for-beautiful-photos/
3 : https://studyinsweden.se/why-sweden/quick-facts-about-sweden/?nabe=6477447614169088:1&utm_referrer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com%2F
4 : Photo credit : https://www.flickr.com/photos/diesmali/2818787754
5 : Photo credit : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hJsHVUpGuvI
6 : Photo credit : http://hitek.fr/actualite/luke-pas-jedi-theorie_5001