[13 February 2014]
PopMatters Associate Music Editor
Shifted is the moniker for Alexander Lewis, who has also recorded as Covered in Sand and Pacific Blue, and the title of this UK producer’s latest LP, Under a Single Banner, couldn’t be more a propos. It seems that the defining statement of this album is to consider the dark, thudding relentlessness of industrial electronica and reposition it as just another sub genre of glistening techno. And in creating a foreboding soundscape, Lewis has succeeded. Whether it be the club banging eight minutes of “Burning Tyres” or the vinyl-scratchy landscapes of “Chrome, Canopy & Bursting Heart”, Shifted makes the case that the darkness of one genre contrasted with the lightness of another need not be mutually exclusive. The effect is rather startling. Think of Skinny Puppy taking a series of uppers and you have Under a Single Banner‘s sonic palette.
The only slight flaw is that Under a Single Banner does come across as being a smidge on the repetitive and minimal side, and its tracks tend to run on and on without offering very much of a seismic shift in tone. However, there are startling elements to be had here, whether it be the marching military drum machine staccato beats of “Pulse Incomplete” or the bip-boom-bash of the pads from the nominal “Contract O”, which gradually change from solid to liquid in sound. So there’s much to be made of this mash-up and collage of sonic bliss. I also love how “Core of Stone” sounds like the backing track for Ministry’s “Hero” and gradually builds and builds. This is club music for the apocalyptic crowd, and much of what is to be had on Under a Single Banner does undeniably sound fresh and original. It’s the sound of a world coming to an end on Prozac, and the infectious concoction of the darkness merged with the light is one worthy of reveling in like a pig dancing in you-know-what. Under a Single Banner mostly and mainly satisfies, and that is a worthy commendation for something that uses electronica as an intersection of two vastly different types of emotion.