"…calling it Shedding the Past seemed to be a mere paradox… it feels so much the emotion, the feeling of the intensity and purity of club and rave in the early days, without resembling those gone moments…." In a fuzzy transmission floating between the seventh and eighth track of Shedding the Past, we get this commentary straight from the horse's mouth. Shed's English is awkward and broken, but his description is right on the money: Shedding is an album that harkens back to its influences for the sake of progress rather than nostalgia. Over the course of these eleven tracks, Shed paints a stark landscape, glistening with steely hues of early techno and forming something sleek, jagged and as he puts it, "full of energy and vigor." Shedding is austere and avant-garde, but its inspired rhythms and unified variety make it as compelling as it is provocative.
The most immediately striking aspect of Shedding are the off-kilter beats. For a techno album whose songs mostly chug along at 130 BPM, the feeling of forward propulsion is notably scarce. After a brief and vaporous intro, "Boose-Sweep" stumbles in with abrupt intensity. An airy melody hovers in, and the beat slips further and further into a dilapidated groove, making it increasingly difficult not to dance like a jittery invalid. On "Another Wedged Chicken," heavy bass kicks bookend each measure, letting a flurry of hand-claps flesh out the space in between. The rhythm lurches back and forth with an arrogant swagger that seems to say, "alright, let's start this shit," making this a wonderfully expressive track to mix with. On "Flat Axe," a restrained 4/4 tick takes things down a notch, priming the listener for the hollow spaces ahead.
"The Lower Upside Down" evokes a cavernous atmosphere penetrated by a crisp and delicate micro-beat, creating a vibe ineffably suited to the song's title. For better or worse, things get a little misty-eyed on "Slow Motion Replay," with delayed piano stabs adding a dose of chill-out room cheese to an otherwise stern track. This could be the album's only misstep, especially as the beatless "Waved Mind" achieves an equally euphoric effect with creamier, Eno-esque production. Nonetheless, it is part of a graceful shift in tone that reveals Shed's knack for narrative arc, and makes the upcoming U-turn all the more jarring.
As "Waved Mind" dissipates, the crackle of magnetic tape introduces "Archived Document," the aforementioned statement of purpose from Shed. This piggyback segue sets up the album's most powerful moment: the fuzz slips back, Shed delivers three words in a staccato grumble—"True. Techno. Music."—and there drops the brisk and heavy beat to the album's only balls-out peak-time killer, aptly titled "That Beats Everything!" It is an indulgent romp, and Shed's ear for production is no less apparent here than on the more experimental tracks. After such a metallic climax, "ITHAW" sounds almost housey as it drifts by with syncopated bass pumps and ghostly female voices. Aside from "Slow Motion Replay," "Estrange" is the album's most emotive chapter. Its warbling melody recalls Aphex Twin's early ambient works, while its somber melancholy smacks of Klimek or Tim Hecker. Shedding glides to a finish with "Ostrich-Mountain-Square," a shimmering ambient number that closes the album on a pleasantly serene note.
Though Shedding the Past has a style that is purely its own, it falls into the fold of Ostgut-Ton very elegantly. Much like Berghain/Panorama Bar and its illustrious cast of resident DJs, Shed perpetuates the visceral excitement of old school rave by ceaselessly presenting the listener with something cryptic, physical and modern. With its lustrous aesthetic, oblique rhythms and coherent diversity, Shedding the Past is surely one of the best albums of the year.
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Tracklist: Shed - Shedding the Past01. Intro
02. Boose Sweep
03. Another Wedged Chicken
04. Flat Axe
05. The Lower Upside Down
06. Slow Motion Replay
07. Waved Mind/Archived Document
08. That Beats Everything!
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