ALBUM REVIEW – Henry Green – ‘Shift’

7/10

Bristol-based electronic artist and producer Henry Green releases his debut album, “Shift” on 30th March via Akira Records. So far Green has two cult adored EPs, over 18m Spotify streams and shows with London Grammar and Nick Mulvey to his name. “Shift” is the next step for the rising producer – the album was recorded in both Bristol and Berlin and was co-produced by Nico Rebscher and mixed by Jack Shuter. There is a notable difference of sound as Green pushes his musical boundaries – drifting further away from the guitar that formed the epicentre of his early songs and leaning towards heavier, icy synths.

“I’ve become obsessed with the idea of creating atmosphere. As I learnt more about production,” he explains, “I found it easier to translate my ideas and find new ways to create the sounds that would reflect my lyrical style.” The main theme of the album for Green is movement. He explains “We’re constantly moving in some manner, at some pace… whether it’s physically or emotionally. This year was all about progression and change for me, so I found myself constantly gravitating towards that idea of movement in my lyrics. ‘Shift’ was a word that just kept reappearing when writing the tracks, whether I was describing the structures of the tracks, the instrumentation/arrangement and obviously, the lyrics. I wanted to exhibit a feeling of constant movement in the album and that idea that every element is constantly shifting but at a variety of paces.”

Among his inspirations are Jon Hopkins and Erased Tapes favourites Olafur Arnalds and German Producer Nils Frahm. It’s a different artist he’s most associated with, though – Norwegian production megastar Kygo, who in 2013 remixed Green’s cover of MGMT hit ‘Electric Feel’ to the tune of 10m SoundCloud streams. The simply titled I (..for introduction, perhaps?) portrays a sense of floating underwater, of total stillness and serenity – its purpose is to enable the listener to “re-set” with a small charge of calm before the album truly begins.

Aiir starts with simple guitar strums and Green’s delicate vocal before percussion sounds transform the song into a cool, trippy vibe followed by rich layers of warm, shimmering synth. Green shows his developing skills as a producer here by his ability to blend acoustic and synthetic sounds seamlessly. The whole album is based around the central themes of movement and transportation but none more so than on the album title track Shift. Lyrically, Shift refers to the sensation of falling, of enjoying the loss of control and feeling of weightlessness: “I feel movement under my skin when we collide/I feel it all when you let me in/ Caught in descent, with you I’m falling – a sweet decline /You’ll hear me call when the motion ends”

A delicious burst of soothing strings and alluring synth give this song an electronic R&B vibe – it makes for an intoxicating listen and Green encapsulates perfectly the contrast of drifting between quietness and consciousness. The track was put together in Berlin at the well-known Funkhaus studio – an old radio broadcasting site built in the 1950s. Nils Frahm, the German producer/musician/composer and Green’s “dream collaborator” has worked here. It’s of no surprise then that both the Funkhaus studio and Frahm, (who is known for combining classical and electronic sounds) seem to have inspired Green’s approach to creating space in his music, each sound isolated and left to be appreciated.

Another Light is a track that instantly appeals and an album highlight. Again, there is that space and quiet ambience in the verses but the chorus is where it all happens here. Its evocative electronic arrangements and delicious dance beat make for a hazy and hypnotic listen. The chorus installs a feeling of a warm summer’s day and the promise of new beginnings. Stay Here starts low-key with Green’s hushed, fragile vocal: “I’m in the darkness/I feel loose and I feel weightless” but slowly changes with the help of glistening synth sounds and graceful percussion. The song’s initial, isolated ambience eventually builds into a sweeping, cinematic soundscape. Without You, simply put is about all-absorbing love. A trip to Paris was the inspiration behind Green’s harp-like samples that sprinkle the song’s introduction with romance. The subtle, gorgeous twangs of guitar sounds add a lovely mix of warmth and dazzle.

Diversion is the album’s only instrumental song and is soaked in synth-laden heavy atmospherics whilst closing track Something brings the album to an echoey, ethereal end. Lyrically it’s a song of having someone or something that provides you with warmth and light – sonically it’s an endearing expression of love and wanting. Shift is an impressive debut from Henry Green – it’s laden with delicate, complex electronic sounds that show a maturity far beyond his age of 22.The result is an album that is subtle and cinematic and combines intimate, confessional songwriting with an electronic obsession that Green has harboured since aged 16. For those music lovers like Green, who wish to escape to somewhere less chaotic and slower in pace, then this most certainly is the album for you.