New Confusion finds Shit and Shine at their best, tying familiar and esoteric styles into horrifyingly jagged knots of distortion and discord.
Austin-based experimental project Shit and Shine, led by noise rock veteran Craig Clouse, have dipped their toes into what feels like every musical style under the sun, pulling up cracked, shattered, and bruised takes on everything from blown-out powerviolence, eerie ambient, and pulsating techno. On New Confusion — a record that is, by most accounts, the fifteenth LP in an extremely vast discography that spans back to the project’s birth in 2004 — Shit and Shine once again trade in mangled sonic architecture, putting their current stylistic preoccupations through the electro-sludge meat grinder.
There are shades of drone, noise, krautrock, and glitchy city pop all over New Confusion, and opening track “Annoyed” gets right to delivering the motorik goods, with a mechanized beat and blaring synths. An eerie computer-generated voice repeats the phrase, “you’re angry or annoyed,” giving late-capitalist therapy-speak the drubbing it deserves. “Cocoa Leaves,” by contrast, is a subdued downtempo drone, punctuated by blaring horns and bizarre dialogue snippets between Danny DeVito and Christopher Lloyd, taken from the TV show Taxi. Vocal samples are scattered throughout the entire album, their use by turns comedic and uncanny. The clipped choir singing on “Shipped” offers a humorous contrast to the song’s deceptively mellow, melted yacht rock, while “Runnin’ Around”‘s ominous slowcore dirge is made even more off-putting by the garbled voices haunting the track’s shadowy corners.
In spite of its intensely warped sensibility and deconstructionist ambitions, New Confusion, has its moments of relative straightforwardness as well. The minimal, mechanic “Park Road 1-C” sounds like it staggered in from the sessions for Shit and Shine’s industrial-tinged 2015 electronic album 54 Synth-Brass, 38 Metal Guitar, 65 Cathedral, its repetitive club beat only occasionally interrupted by Silent Hill sirens howling in the background. Meanwhile, the fragmented rhythms of follow-up track, “Riviera,” borrows from Toe’s “反逆する風景,” the stuttering opening track to the Japanese math rockers 2005 debut, The Book About My Idle Plot on a Vague Anxiety.
On their latest outing, Shit and Shine not only rummage through the past, but also examine the present, their eyes trained on the krauty ’70s and noise- and electronics-drenched ’90s, as well as on our current era of lost futures. “Miami” further fractures and distorts the laid-back pop irony of internet microgenres, warping its summery vibes almost beyond recognition. The tune’s corrupted audio quality hearkens back to the early days of shady peer-to-peer file sharing clients, but also laments the loss of optimism that our obsession with reworking the past seems to signify, the breezy song growing increasingly disjointed across its four minutes.
New Confusion, even with its wild stylistic digressions, feels very much conceptually coherent, and by the time the sinister, darkly comic closing track “Robbed” rolls around, the hurtling noise rock of the album opener still rumbles somewhere in the LP’s DNA. Once again peppered with all manner of audio samples, including a car alarm, the song slows the returning air-raid sirens down to a monstrous bellow, and the crazed conversation its overlaid with feels like Whitehouse’s “Why You Never Became a Dancer” took a detour through an Adult Swim show from the early 2010s, complete with absurd vocal affectations and non-sequiturs.
Since his early days with noisy London doomgrind quartet Todd, whose 2009 album Big Ripper remains one of the great unsung noise rock classics, Shit and Shine bandleader Craig Clouse has been committed to delivering sounds that are as twisted and abrasive as humanly (or technologically) possible, tying both familiar and more esoteric styles into horrifyingly jagged knots of distortion and discord. Some of the project’s more recent work zeroed in on specific genres, as with the coarse but surprisingly dance floor-ready EDM of 2018’s Bad Vibes. On New Confusion, however, Clouse and his cohorts are up to their old tricks, once again coming through with a ferocious, ear-piercing, but always playful collection of tracks that proves to be a lot more thoughtful and rewarding than its rough-around-the-edges exterior might superficially suggest.