Saturday, December 04, 2010

Shed, "The Traveller"

This album earned rave reviews, but I started writing this post to talk about how disappointing it is.

Shed's last album, "Shedding the Past", was a blueprint for the modern techno album, with track after epic track of bumping techno rhythms inflected by dub, broken beat, and dubstep. It too was a bit overrated (RA ranked it in their top 20 albums of the 00's), but there's no denying that its success, coupled with some high profile appearance such as his festival-stealing set at MUTEK, made "The Traveller" one of the year's most anticipated techno releases.

Shed's prior work, which includes high profile podcasts from earlier this year for the likes of RA and FACT, shows that he refuses to confine himself to a techno cubbyhole. On the "Traveller", he tries to expand that kitchen sink approach, foregoing almost any attempt at producing a dancefloor friendly album in favour of a diverse array of styles whose running times rarely extend much past four minutes. The problem is that nothing really happens on the album's first half, and it's only when the purer techno of "HDRTM" and "My R-Class" show up that the record kicks itself into gear. Up until that point, it feels like an album of beat explorations, and nothing gets enough time to develop into anything interesting, with the exception of the Scorn-like dub of "The Bot", whose six minutes of sparse beats feels more like 20.

At least that's what I thought after my first listen. But there's a reason why some albums demand repeat listens. Now I think "The Traveller" is pretty great, more or less for all the same reasons that I listed in the previous paragraph although I still think that it's a bit slow in the first half and could use one or two more techno-oriented tracks. And why haven't more contemporary artists mined the 1990-1 sound of Sheffield bleep, like Shed does on the fantastically bass-heavy LFO pastiche "Hello Bleep!"?

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