Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Shed - The Killer


Have you ever stopped for a second and thought - maybe out of curiosity, maybe so out of some tiny spark of intrigue - about just what emotions an artist brings to the table when the time comes to convert the brainstorm of notes and jotted-down ideas into musical form? Certainly you've made assumptions whenever a band or maybe a solo artist displays some means of context in their lyricism or perhaps their stylizing of tone and rhythm. But less so perhaps, has the same been said for the humble electronic musician. Maybe it's because such genres as house, ambient and even the techno of today, are anything but humble. For Shed, Germany's very own techno architect, a personality as secluded and as confined as this, may not come across as the most talkative and outspoken of individuals, but beyond the human interface of words and voice, it's the man's obtrusive beats and overlay of menacingly moody production and mixing, that strikes a far-flung chord with the ear. And with 2012's release 'The Killer' presenting itself through the album's solitary cover of a bluntly metallic-shaded composite of a giant speaker, Shed's cleverly-fused house-techno message is nothing short of grand and direct.

It's these very deep bass-shattering ground-shaking beats that are at the heart of Shed's sound as is detailed in early track 'Silent Witness', which is anything but. Despite it starting things with a lightly treading wash of pitchy minimal beats and hushes of vocal samples looping through, the track soon reveals a more enriching depth to its content, a vague descent of string-like synths and ambient hums leaving the more grounded beats less treading on ground and more gliding desperately across the open air of the track. But things pick up tremendously in the following track 'I Come By Night', which sees Shed almost gritting and grinding his signature rough-edged synths into a pulp, the earthly stampede of beats rising in waves against what soon becomes a swirl and coil of more analog sounds later on. Shed certainly does keep to this same rhythm throughout, but it's the compelling characteristics of these quaking of sounds that provide a very brood and batted background to the music.

Likewise, listening to 'Day After' despite all the vocalized mumbling of words, actually conjures more of a baroness to its environment than most other techno sounds. Whether it's the tracks' nervy twitching of synths, or even the hop-scotch beats that cut through the waviness, that drives this conjuring of visuals, is all for the listener to decide. But this very straight-forward yet compelling directness in Shed's music certainly succeeds in conjuring an atmosphere about the space. 'Prototype' by contrast, shows the artist's homage - almost nostalgic homage - to the early 90's and the experimentalism of house music. Shed's mix of the rough and the rounded fall into a calming equilibrium, crashes of drums gelling with the lighter treads of keyboards and cloudy synths that rise above it all. And while it is nice to see Shed almost withdrawing back to the softer and more analytical approach to electronic music, it's these palettes of sound and direction that, here unfortunately, don't exactly share the same delightfully abrupt nature of his previous tracks.

'Ride On' then, could be seen as the middle-ground between these two differences in mixture. While the spacey synthesizers still show their more cosmic glow throughout, the percussion doesn't feel haltered or affected by the way the track finds itself progressing, and even growing out. There's still that darkening chasm-like drop in Shed's production and mix of beats, yet the cosmic glow of his experimentalist sounds still provide that glistening in the distance. 'You Got The Look' too manages to keep the heavy-hollow unison in check, this time trying its hand at giving Shed's sound a more glitchy and retaliatory refining to its progression. A short track, but the ghostly passage between the synths and beats almost makes it feel infinite in its breadth, electronics phasing in and out of one another to the point where length becomes merely absent in presence.

The final track 'Follow The Leader' however is Shed's most withdrawn and without a doubt, the shining gem in his roughening stone-like composite. The inclusion of a solitary piano, in what simple shades of keys that pass by, tug the track from its former hum of mid-air bliss - helped again by the rummaging of analog synths and rattled percussion work - into something a lot more reachable both emotively and conceptually. It certainly feels as if this is Shed's most personal and direct track on this album, and the feeling is expressed to tremendous effect in how simple and minimal these composites of notes and effect-changes come.

Despite what slight adventures into minimal sounds and transcendent layering you come across here - as you would on many a 2012 release for a genre such as this - Shed meanwhile sets his sights way past the trajectory of the cosmic and the surreal. What sets 'The Killer' aside from the majority lying in the same field, is its instinctive urge to push the mark that little extra forward through its direct use of beats and its no-holding-back expression of emotion. True, the minimal attempts provide less of a punch than those which are more substance content-wise, but aside from the delves and the descents - that are as equally uplifting and spacious in their output - Shed is an artist/producer who can not only create a beat, but direct it in a thoughtful yet strongly-evoking manner. And without going over-board and slipping casually into electronic for the sake of being electronic, synthesizers here are no longer caged and limited to buttons and knobs, but actually tear away from the mechanics; across the void of effects and applications, and directly into our ears. Something that punchy, doesn't often suggest an artist's deeper and more personal intentions on visualizing his ideas...except it seems, on here.


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