Since Crossed Paths established Shifted as a contemporary techno artist, Brewer's work has come in fits and starts. It's become increasingly avant-garde, released under new pseudonyms like Covered In Sand, Relay and Alexander Lewis. Appropriation Stories marks the return of the Shifted alias after two years away. This is music that moves with a curious, polyrhythmic gait, casting a psychedelic shadow onto otherwise straightforward techno.
"Flatlands" is among Brewer's best tracks. Its central motif sounds like loose ball bearings rolling around the stereo spectrum as the rhythm section motors forward. Less intricate but equally impressive is "Watchers," where a high-pitched sound drills itself into your head. It's exemplary of an album where Brewer prefers abstract, atonal sounds to actual melodies.
What Appropriation Stories does differently is mix Brewer's last few years of sonic adventurousness with the dance floor dynamics of his older stuff, making for music that feels impenetrable and unstoppable. Appropriation Stories is an intense, bewildering listen. Only towards the end—with the the start-stop breakdown of "Watchers" and the depressive melodies of "The Faintest Trace, The Quietest Whisper"—does Brewer approach any kind of dynamism.
Even the album's drum & bass motif feels vague. Try as you might, you won't find any amen breaks here, aside from whatever fragments of sound might be taken from old drum & bass tracks. It's more of a spiritual affinity, something in the way these tracks seem to always be in motion and yet are so rigid they could be at a standstill. As with most of Shifted's music, Appropriation Stories isn't an epic statement or a leap of faith. It's another inch forward, another layer of detail and atmospheric noise stratified into his dense music. The title isn't so far off after all: listen carefully and you can hear the accumulated sounds of Brewer's past packed into its knotted grooves.