Ostgut Ton, 2010
Over the past few years, Shed has been receiving an education in dance music from the fine folks at Hard Wax. That’s my theory, anyway, since this album could serve as a thesis.
The Traveller begins with a reference to Shed’s STP alias. Atmospheric, textured chords build and decay. Then the beats of “Keep Time” drop in. Alarms accompany a big, bold drum kit.
On “The Bot,” Shed plays with dub techno conventions. He cuts off warm chord pulses mid-echo, then slowly fills the space between with percussion. “Atmo – Action” finds Shed returning to his Detroit-inspired roots, but with a twist—a contemporary, spiky beat.
“44A (Hard Wax Forever!)” starts and ends surprisingly light, with tinkling bells. As you would expect, a nice, dense bed of bass, beats, and chords make up the middle portion. “Mayday” explores the Detroit connection to IDM (and beyond), with spacey synths over a rippling beat. Syncopated double snares eventually appear between the third and fourth kicks. It’s really quite beautiful.
“No Way!” is a speaker buster. Sped-up repeating organ notes spatter, then a tar pit of wobbly bass pulls everything down. On “HDRTM,” an electronic waterfall splashes over low, galloping bass. It nearly induces motion sickness. “My R-Class” is a cold experiment with a single-note acid line and marching kick drum. “Final Experiment” is more palatable. Sands of static shift over wood blocks and, briefly, synthesizer swells. The title track is a short ambient piece whose plug is abruptly pulled.
“Hello Bleep!” (presumably a reference to Warp Records) is nicely done. Its beat has the bouncing ball effect Aphex Twin made famous on his “Windowlicker” EP. “Intelligent” melodic chords border on parody, but I still wish the track were longer. “Leave Things” is also short, but it’s a glorious four minutes. Lush electronics bubble, and drum ‘n’ bass beats soar. Emphatic bass provides the final piece of the puzzle.
Maybe this album isn’t a thesis as much as a victory lap, with Shed giving shout-outs to all those who helped him along the way. He has gained both confidence and range since his last LP. Even with such a wide breadth of styles and techniques, this album never seems disjointed. Rather, it feels like a celebration of electronic music past, present, and future.