Two Shell - Icons EP Music Album Reviews

Two Shell - Icons EP Music Album Reviews
The cheeky London duo put their own spin on UK bass music, and their latest EP of compu-heaters is one of the most substantial releases of their young but already impressive career.

Given their playful public image, it might seem like Two Shell crashed into the murky world of UK bass like a glitter bomb in a cement factory. But in reality, the mysterious London duo came in a Trojan horse made of unassuming stuff: brittle textures, stark tone colors, sternly syncopated beats. Their 2019 debut EP for Livity Sound fit neatly with the lean, percussive style of leftfield UK club music. Their anthemic tendencies earned comparisons to Overmono and Bicep, UK duos known for supersizing underground tropes for big-room crowds. And Two Shell’s edits—like “Wedding Practice,” which makes zero attempt to disguise a sizeable chunk lifted from Alicia Keys’ “If I Ain’t Got You”—put them in a class alongside artists like Four Tet and Jamie xx, who wield canny bootlegs as floor-filling festival wildcards.

But not long after they’d established themselves as promising new talents working within a well-defined lane, a switch was flipped, and the anonymous duo turned out to have much more mischievous inclinations. On Two Shell’s 2020 mix CD, ɪᴍᴘᴀᴄᴛ21, songs by canonical acts like Skee Mask and the Prodigy bumped up against shards of digital-native styles like nightcore and hyperpop. They’ve recently dusted their music with helium-huffing vocals reminiscent of SOPHIE and peppered their sets with cheeky flips of Sugababes and the Corrs. Digging is part of any DJ’s job, but hearing Two Shell drop chirpy remixes of unknown emo randos suggests an affinity with Gen Z’s digital avant-garde that you won’t find among most of their post-dubstep peers.

The audaciousness of Two Shell’s productions is matched by the slipperiness of the duo’s presentation. In their Boiler Room appearance at Barcelona’s Primavera Sound last month, they performed wearing absurd disguises—chain mail and cloth goat horns on one, clown wig and nylon-stocking face mask on the other—and were almost certainly pantomiming to a pre-recorded mix. There are even rumors that the two people behind the decks weren’t Two Shell at all. The deeper you descend through the Two Shell looking glass, the more the whole enterprise begins to take on the air of a grade-A piss take, a no-fucks-given sendup of contemporary DJ culture. Yet on Icons, their most substantial release to date, the music, at least, is no joke.

Compared to the breakneck pace and cotton-candy textures of their recent jungle edit “Home,” Icons’ five tracks at first sound almost staid. There are plenty of sped-up vocals and zippy synths, but the tempos are more measured, the structures more streamlined, the beats more in keeping with the past decade of bass-heavy UK techno. Joy Orbison’s game-changing 2009 single “Hyph Mngo” is their obvious lodestar; you can hear it almost verbatim in the hiccupping vocal loop of the opening “Ghosts” and the fluttering synths of “Pods,” which follows. While it’s hardly an obscure pick—no song did more to mark the end of the dubstep era and the beginning of the amorphous stylistic free-for-all that followed—it’s been a while since anyone zeroed in so doggedly on the song’s ecstatic qualities. Virtually every element of Icons feels engineered to replicate the dizzy rush of nightclubbing at its most exhilarating, when a new sound gets its claws into you for the first time.

Two Shell are master manipulators of tension. “Ghosts” just keeps cresting upward, promising release and then pulling out the rug as its towering pillar of synths collapses in a shuddering heap. “Dust” uses a brisk, stuttering effect to accentuate its pulse-raising intensity. “Pods” is even more white-knuckled, running an indistinct vocal sample through a tinny metallic filter that makes it sound like someone is screaming bloody murder somewhere deep in the bowels of the track.

But as full-on as the music can get, they top it off with a jokey flourish of something like metafiction. “Pods” pauses halfway through to make way for a sing-song computer voice intoning database commands. “Calling digital rockstar,” it warbles, and is swiftly answered by an ersatz electric guitar. The relatively linear and groove-driven “Dust” is repeatedly interrupted by the sing-song voiceover of an android flight controller, recalling similar gambits by Drexciya, Daft Punk, and DJ Koze’s trio International Pony. “Memory” makes the most extensive use of these self-consciously digital textures; its melancholy, Vocaloid-inspired singing could have come from a folder of unused PC Music stems. All of these additions have the effect of undoing any potential self-seriousness; the beats may be heavy, but the mood is as light and frothy as Cool Whip.

The final song, “Mainframe,” breaks with the lithe rhythms and wide-eyed rapture of the preceding four tracks. A mid-tempo breakbeat tune marbled with gnarled streaks of acidic bass, it’s a pretty unambiguous homage to the garish big beat sound of the late ’90s, right down to the turntable scratching effects. Bogged down by its half-time rhythm and sticky midrange, it’s the only song on the EP that never achieves liftoff, but the style, at least, is entirely in character for Two Shell. Armed with concussive beats, sardonic wit, and the fairy dust of a sneakily deployed sample, they’re clearly intent upon reclaiming the lineage of UK dance music at its boldest and brashest, taking their place alongside iconic duos like the Chemical Brothers and the KLF. They’re not there yet, but Icons suggests they have a really good shot at it.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Two Shell - Icons EP Music Album Reviews Two Shell - Icons EP Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Saturday, July 09, 2022 Rating: 5

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