Shift – Altamont Rising LP Unrest Productions / CD Cold Spring Records 2014
The solo helmed Shift have been steadily building their profile for a decade now and whilst the previous full length album ‘Bulk’ from 2009 received a fair degree of critical praise, ‘Altamont Rising’ further elevates Shift’s sound to a level which represents their magnum opus to date. As with earlier material Shift has carved out a niche sound which inhabits the border regions between noise and power electronics, yet the sonic aggression and density on display here is monolithic even by Shift’s standards.
Utilising layered industrial noise filth and scathing junk metal clatter to produce a heavily drudging atmosphere, Shift’s approach is too structured nor chaotic enough to quality as pure noise, yet equally is more freeform and ‘soundscape’ oriented that than a typical power electronics ‘song’ approach. Effectively Shift construct their compostions by bedding down layer upon layer of industrial clamour, where each layer also embodies a vague looped rhythmic structure. Thus with the sonic layers complementing and competing for supremacy in equal measures, it provides a loose sense of structure to what otherwise could be a chaotic mass of sound. Also with each composition effectively bleeding into the next, it only adds to atmosphere of enveloping moroseness, as the oppressive caustic distortion, buried samples, garbled radio chatter and sporadic anger infused vocals combine to gradually grind and crush the listeners psyche.
‘Circling Raptor’ opens the album with thick, heavy and laborious waves of distortion, which combine into a crushing mass of sound. This track then flows directly into the slightly more structured ‘They Don’t Suffer Enough’, which is characterised by crumbling layers of loosely rhythmic, low to mid-range industrial noise muck, prior to the introduction of the album’s first vocals which are distortion saturated and barked in full power electronics guise. One of the album’s most direct tracks is ‘Shelter’ which opens the second side of the LP with driving mid-paced distortion loops, sampled background crowd noise and fiercely oppressive and borderline unhinged vocal attack. This mood is pushed to even further extremes on ‘Rising’ with it’s the pulsing distortion, squealing noise and heavily flanged vocals. Yet notwithstanding the totality of its oppressiveness, the final album track ‘The Greatest Ecstasy’ finishes on a slightly differing tangent, mostly due to the vocals, which take the form of an intense whisper (with elongated method of lyrical pronunciation), as the multi-layered slab of cyclic rumbling industrial noise grinds incessantly to the album’s final vinyl groove.
The LP version of ‘Altamont Rising’ is limited to a mere 100 copies, issued on heavy weight vinyl and housed within a screen printed rough card stock cover with a couple of printed inserts, with a less limited CD version issued via Cold Spring Records. Through ‘Altamont Rising’, Shift have ascended to their full potential which was previously hinted at and achieved to varying degrees on prior releases. In shorter terms this impression could be expressed as: ‘Altamont Rising’ equals an absolute demonstration of Shift’s ascendancy.