Compelling electronic duo Two Shell continue to find their voice with new EP Icons – a playful but punchy five-track project made for the club.
If you rocked up to Two Shell’s set at Primavera a few weeks ago, you might have been bemused to find two freaks clad in chainmail, masks and horns bopping behind the decks. The word is that the figures were actually imposters miming a pre-recorded set. This cheeky piss-take approach also informs Icons, a bassy techno-driven journey through space that is narrated by various computerized characters. “This is the operator speaking”, we hear, “please hold on to your touchpads…”
Two Shell’s first release on Livity Sound back in 2020 was a water-tight debut, but also a fairly conventional contribution to the label’s sound. Since then, the pair’s work has steadily grown in personality. From this burgeoning confidence exploded the ballsy synthetic-jungle edit “home” at the start of the year, which stirred a rapturous reception. ‘Pods’, the first single from Icons, came out in May. With dazzling, ecstatic synths reminiscent of Joy Orbison’s ‘Hyph Mngo’ and a screaming guitar solo from the “digital rockstar”, this track is the offering closest to a crowd-pleaser.
‘Dust’ arrived in mid-June, alongside the announcement of the EP. It is characterised by a chunky bassline that kicks in hard after the “operator” has had his say. Things are held together by a drum pattern that is heavy on the hats with plenty of vocal snatches sprinkled on top. Of the three new tracks hosted on Icons, the opener ‘Ghosts’ is easily my favourite. Moody, introspective and set to a rolling techno beat, it makes you want to dance uncontrollably. Ominous digital whispers of “don’t look at me” and “do not forget me” cast an air of solitude – though the experience is not lonely. It feels like we are inside the head of a robot on MDMA rocking out in the corner of a club.
The least remarkable moment of the EP is ‘Memory’, track four. Although it brings nothing new to the table, the song still boasts gorgeous production, and the ear canals enjoy a massage from some pleasing squelchy sounds. It deftly incorporates the final words from our android accomplices, who bid adieu with a series of glitchy snippets.
Whilst the first four tracks form a cohesive sonic package, ‘Mainframe’ pulls in another direction. The finisher is an ode to 90s big beat, complete with vinyl scratches and Prodigy-esque breaks. Positioned at the end it could feel slightly like a bolt-on, but it nicely develops sounds from some of Two Shell’s earlier work – notably ‘Fracture’ and ‘Force’ from the Touchpad EP. Perhaps this track is best fathomed as an encore by the digital rockstar of ‘Pods’.
At various points on Icons the music teeters on the edge of unrestrained ascension, before cutting back to the lean, taut beats. The prevailing industrial sound is ideal fodder for underground clubs, but I wouldn’t be surprised to hear any of the first three tracks playing out at festivals this summer. With Icons, Two Shell have grasped the UK electronic scene by the scruff. They may not always be serious in their antics, but they are evidently serious about the music. Our ears are firmly pricked for their next move.