[sic] Magazine

Bitcrush – Shimmer and Fade

Bitcrush (one man) is a pioneering IDM artist with sights set firmly on emotional resonance. Although Bitcrush utilizes the techniques of IDM he is reaching beyond that genre to post-rock, dream pop and straight-up indie. His work is swathed with introspection, self-doubt and melancholia. And it is quite wonderful.

Consider the titles. ‘Waiting for something’, ‘The Missing’, ‘And we fade’, ‘The destruction of self’, ‘Have you lost your way?’ This is the output of a highly reflective artist, very analytical, very self-aware. I had the pleasure of reviewing Bitcrush before. Firstly with the nebulous ‘In distance’ and then on his epic last album, ‘Epilogue in waves’. ‘Shimmer and fade’ pre-dates both those works and is re-released here on Bitcrush’s own n5MD label when originally it had been a digital release for ENPEG. With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, ‘Shimmer and fade’ is more formative and less accomplished that its two successors. It is easy to spot the progression from ‘Shimmer’ to ‘Distance’ and then onto ‘Epilogue’. These latter two albums would establish Bitcrush alongside the likes of Manual and Hammock only with even more epic leanings a la Stafrarnn Hakon and port-royal.

‘Shimmer and Fade’ contains plenty of indie signposts but is still essentially starting from an IDM platform and there are copious pulsing beats and glitches here to keep the downtempo hordes contented. Yet still we hear the early results of Bitcrush marrying this crisp processing with gorgeous guitars and echoing vocals. Listen, if you can, to a track like ‘Waiting for something’, which begins with twinkling, minimalist keys before layering on beats, guitars and gaseous, almost intangible singing eventually climaxing with symphonic electronics. Another track, ‘The Missing’, meanders for a full seven minutes and then shifts gently into an achingly beautiful vista reminiscent of Slowdive.

I called him a pioneer and of course pioneers take considerable risks. Bitcrush had cultivated a fan base within die-hard IDM and threatened to alienate them with his forays into new territory. I hope he doesn’t join the list of great innovators appreciated only retrospectively by the music historians. Yet risks he takes even approaching pop at one point (‘When swallowing becomes difficult’) only mercifully less sacherine than Maps and less obviously sourced than LCD Soundsystem.

Shimmering then, but Bitcrush would not fade. Catch him blazing on ‘In Distance’ and ‘Epilogue in waves’. But know too that Shimmer and Fade is no curate’s egg. He just had to make his ‘Pablo Honey’, before his ‘The Bends’ and ‘OK Computer’. Real fans will find it all essential.