Chris Hughes

Chris Hughes: Shift

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Chris Hughes' 1994 Shift, subtitled "From the Music of Steve Reich," was a pioneering disc in many ways; it was an homage from a popular musician to a figure best known as a classical musician who was as serious-minded as its subject, for one thing. Steve Reich has long been a preoccupation for Englishman Chris Hughes, who witnessed the European premiere of Reich's drumming in London in 1972. Between that time and the date of recording, Hughes managed to get involved in other pursuits; he was one of the drummers in Adam & the Ants and was one of the minds behind the most popular albums produced by the group Tears for Fears. Along the way, Hughes did production work for Howard Jones, Paul McCartney, Enya and Robert Plant among others, mainly as a drummer, drum programmer, or both. Shift was a labor of love that Hughes did on his own, and it remains his only solo album. Released on Fontana in Europe, Shift wasn't a huge seller but got decent critical notices at least. In America, it was released on Point Music through PolyGram, which didn't seem to know what to do with it. Marketed as a new age album at a time when new age was considered "dead," the pop fans who might've liked it missed it, and the classical music fans who would have liked it never heard of it. Shift swiftly disappeared from the shelves in America but, as of September 2006, it's still available in the U.K. Briefly described, Shift is executed with Synclavier utilizing digital drum programs but not always drum sounds. Part of the music is drawn from works of Steve Reich and part of it is not, and the part deriving from Reich does not represent a literal performance of his music as scored so much as an impression gained fro his examples. One remarkable piece on the disc is "Slow Motion Blackbird," which realizes the Reich concept piece "Slow Motion Sound" which wasn't technically possible in 1967 when it was written, but Hughes does so nearly 25 years afterward using a sample of a blackbird's song. Played quietly as suggested, it can be relaxing, and while it may not cause you to shake your booty like Tears for Fears or Adam & the Ants, for more advanced tastes, such as those interested in avant-garde music, IDM or electronica, Chris Hughes' oddball, one-off experiment should prove well worth your time.

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