How does one appropriate oneself? In the case of Guy Alexander Brewer, the situation is complicated by his various current projects in techno, noise and experimental electronics overlaying a once-hidden past in drum’n’bass. ‘Appropriation Stories’ tackles the matter head-on at length, the endpoint of the mounting inward focus already evident in his work as Shifted. For years shunning his previous work in Commix, more recently Brewer has learned to look back, even making sideways stabs into breakbeat territory with his Covered in Sand alias. The process grows more intricate and subtle on his new album for the Hospital Productions imprint helmed by Dominick Fernow (aka Prurient, Vatican Shadow, et al.). Here rigorous processing and studio treatments transform classic breaks into deeply hidden components that add new layers of character to his highly-developed techno sound.
At first presenting itself as a dense wall of sound underpinned by an incessant pulse, ‘Appropriation Stories’ at length reveals itself to be a much more complex work. In place of the stark minimalism, razor-sharp digital textures or smeared analogue surfaces of his previous output, we are given layered tracks whose intricate mixes reveal themselves over time. A perfect case in point is ‘Watchers’, which begins the album’s third side in a true techno form that is the exception rather than the rule on the album. The breakbeats appear in the irregular rhythmic components that were previously a rarity but are present throughout this album; circling panning on the percussion adds to the disorienting feeling while finely granulated layers of analogue noise rise and fall behind it in waves. For long stretches – opener ‘This Passage’, ‘For Closure’, ‘In Respect of Tactics’ – the rhythm steps back to implied rather than insistent, further exposing the careful arrangements of pure sound. At times he combines the approaches, as on ‘Flatlands’ or ‘Life Backwards’, a rare Brewer track that can justly be called beautiful.
As his origins in purist techno on Shifted’s 2012 album debut (on Luke Slater’s Mote-Evolver) grow more distant, his sound has moved from digital clarity to the murky-but-hard middle ground of the sophomore full length ‘Under a Single Banner’ (on Hospital Production subsidiary Bed of Nails) and through clear evolution on Brewer’s own diversifying Avian imprint. Integrating his more searching work as Alexander Lewis and his increasingly introspective work as Shifted while eloquently addressing his past, ‘Appropriation Stories’ is a comprehensive statement of identity and Brewer’s finest, most mature album to-date.
‘Appropriation Stories’ will be released October 18th on Hospital Productions on 2 x gatefold LP, CD, cassette and digital download.