Since his 2005 debut album Star Light, Japanese techno producer Shin Nishimura has released four albums plus two albums of remixes. His new album Mash, which I recently received, will be released on 15th May on the Plaza In Crowd label. This is the follow-up to his previous studio album Q’hey and Shin’s 2007 album Planetary Alliance. However, between 2007 and 2012, Shin has been busy, releasing two remix albums Identity Politics and Identity Politics Part 2, while releasing a series of EP’s for the Plus label. However, before I tell you about the music on Mash, I’ll tell you about Shin Nishimura’s career so far.
In 2002, Shin Nishimura released his debut EP Rhythm Machine on the Plus label, which he’d founded. Three EP’s later on Plus, Shin released his debut album Star Light in April 2005. Two years later on Plus, Shin would release the follow-up to Star Light, Vlow in March 2007 on Plus. Then in May 2007, came Shin’s third album, a collaboration with DJ and producer Masaya Kyuhei. Q’Hey and Shin’s Planetary Alliances, was released on Kasuga Recordings. Planetary Alliances was the last album of original material Shin would release, until now and his forthcoming album Mash. However, between 2007 and 2012, Shin would release two albums of remixes in 2008 on his Plus label. These were Identity Politics and Identity Politics Part 2. Since then, Shin has released a number of EP’s, for Plus, Hypermuzik and Sleaze Records. This brings us full circle and Shin’s forthcoming album Mash. Shin describes Mash as an innovative techno album that contains “UK Beats and hard grooves,” which I’ll now tell you about.
Opening Mash is Unity, a track that combines crisp, crunchy beats with bursts of squelchy synths. Together, they give the track a hypnotic sound, before a haunting vocal emanates from the arrangement. This adds to the hypnotic sound of the track. Things change later, when ambient sounding synths enter, adding variety and another texture to what’s a highly accomplished and satisfying slice of techno. Not only that, but Shin proves he’s more than capable of producing innovative, quality techno.
In his description of Mash, Shin describes the album as containing “UK beats,” but that’s not the only UK influence. Many of the track names reference places and things London is famous for. One of these is the Tube, hence Shin’s title. The track marauds along, like a tube on the Piccadilly or Central Line. With a combination of pounding beats and a wash of synths, the track reveals its subtleties and secrets. In many ways, this is not unlike a trip on London’s tube, with Shin using synths and beats to cleverly replicate the sound and experience. Like the previous track, the production is polished, with the sound compelling and the journey thoroughly enjoyable.
Earl’s Court has a quite different sound from the previous two tracks. A compellingly repetitive vocal, sensuously soars above the combination of percussion, beats and laid-back, smooth synths. As the vocal appears, disappears and reappears the beats become dark and moody, a contrast to the vocal, percussion and synths. However, there’s something irresistible about this track, and that’s the vocal. It helps the track worm its way into your psyche, where it remains, a tantalizing reminder of this irresistible sounding track.
Neal’s Yard sees pounding drums and handclaps open the track, while a fusion of hi-hats percussion and beefy sounding synths combine. Then when you least expect it, a rapped vocal enters. It’s charismatic, full of confidence and bravado. When the vocal drops out, it’s replaced by a wicked sounding groove. This luscious sound is thanks to a combination of synths, percussion and chugging beats. They combine seamlessly, resulting in a very different sounding track, but one that’s blessed with the wickedest of grooves and a rap full bravado,
Milden Hall is one of the best tracks on Mash. It sees another change in style and sound. There’s a spacey, dubby sound to the track, while a sensual, ever-constant vocal floats above the synths and crunchy beats. Synths reverberate while the almost ever-present vocal becomes like a close companion, and crispy, crunchy, beats drive this grandiose track along to it’s to quick conclusion.
On Mash Bass, the drumbeats pound relentlessly, while steely synths reverberate and gradually, very gradually the track decided to reveal its secrets and hidden depths. For five minutes, the beats mesmerize and hypnotize, while stabs and washes of synths offer variety and contrast. There’s an urban sound and influence, before cascading percussion decides to make an appearance, on a track that’s got Detroit written all over it.
As Knightsbridge opens there’s a subdued sound to the drums, before handclaps and reverberating retro sound synths combine. There’s a real old school sound to this track, as if vintage synths have been dusted off and used to make this track. This gives the track an intriguing, compelling sound, that bring back good memories of how techno used to sound. For Shin Nishimura we should be eternally grateful for producing a track as good as this one.
As I pointed out earlier, there are many references to London in the titles to the tracks of Mash. Camden Rock is just the latest. It’s a track with relentless, pounding beat that’s both dark and moody. As this track pounds along, the synths produce a contrast to the broody, moody and quite glorious sounding beats. Rather than Camden, this is more like a life enhancing ride of a Japanese bullet train.
Acid Polka is an innovative, intelligent take on electronic music, with bubbling synths, percussion and synths that squeak and beep vaingloriously. They give way to thunderous drums, stabs of punchy synths that reveal a glorious old school, lo-fi selection of beeps, squeaks and squelches. Here, Shin has looked to the past to create the future. Using synth sounds from electronic music’s past, he’s used them in a way that’s innovative, intelligent and creative, and in doing so, has created a sound that points towards a direction techno could be heading.
Closing Mash is Acid Eye, an epic track lasting nearly eight minutes long. Here, thunderous, drums pound, before crisp synths sweep in. Then, stabs of synths and a rapid-fire vocal join the mix. After this, the track becomes like an unstoppable juggernaut. Drums dominate this soundscape, while synths, percussion and vocal samples play supporting roles. Later drone like synths combine with the reverberating drums, before disappearing, content in having played an important role in this powerful and dramatic Magnus Opus, which is a fitting and worthy conclusion to Mash, Shin Nishimura’s fourth solo album.
Mash, which is Shin Nishimura’s fourth album is an ambitious, innovative and highly accomplished album of techno. His claim that Shin is an innovative album, with “UK beats” pointing towards the future direction techno is heading, was indeed a bold statement. However, Mash is an innovative album of techno music from a hugely experienced techno producer. In total, there are twelve tracks on Mash, the eleven that make up the album, plus a bonus track Frustration-No Nukes. Using a variety of influences, Shin came up with an album that’s compelling, intriguing and contains an eclectic and consistently high quality of techno. From the opening bars of Unity, until the closing notes of Acid Eye Shin never strays from his mission statement to create, innovate and demonstrate the direction he thinks techno is heading in the future. He’s had plenty of time to think about this, given it’s five years since his last album, Planetary Alliance was released. Given the quality of music on Mash, let’s hope that it’s not another five years until Shin Nishimura’s next album. For anyone who loves techno music, then Mash is an album to look out for. When it’s released on 15th May 2012 on the Plaza In Crowd label, this will allow everyone to hear Shin Nishimura’s manifesto for the future direction of techno, Mash. Standout Tracks: Earl’s Court, Milden Hall, Mash Monster and Knightsbridge.