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Shed - The Killer

50 Weapons

More albums should set their cards on the table, as this one does, within the first few seconds. “If you do not hear this…” begins The Killer with a note of warning, “or that… then you will not feel it”. Idle laptop browsers – who care little for the integrity of audio reproduction and for whom the sheer physiology of sound has become divorced from the experience of everyday listening – are thus greeted with disruptive and unsettling silence where there should exist, for those with the correct set-up, a low gastric rumble. It’s not a difficult initiation to pass but the inclusion of this kind of gauntlet alludes to an ongoing argument over authenticity that seems almost quaint in an era where addled producers trade tips over how to optimise their sound for rattling computer speakers. Though it may be old-fashioned, the battle is less generational – just ask the teenage frequency fetishists spiralling their ears with chunky Beats By Dre logos like legions of branded Princess Leias – than it is cultural. The shifting register of dubstep, from nigh-on infrasonic assault in its early cultic stages to the metallic mid-range warfare of its current global tyranny, is emblematic in this respect; bass pressure is index-linked to a sense of investment in the scene. As Shed potentially moves towards a much wider audience with this album (his third) coming on Modeselektor’s 50 Weapons label, he operates a policy of practical elitism that simultaneously acts as instruction. Resistance is tactile: if you can’t feel it then you won’t feel it.

The low end is indeed substantial – long-wave reverberations that carve a subterranean warren beneath drifting, stuttering cloudworlds. The latter come untethered from their foundations on ‘Gas Up’ and ‘The Praetorian’, with more than a flicker of the wispier end of Steve Pickton’s output. But most of the tracks loom like the keep of Kafka’s castle, impenetrable and unmovable, housing a fearsome bureaucracy. The sounds feel deliberate and inflexible with, for example, the half-speed kick and snare on ‘Day After’ divided and apportioned to either side of the bar with administrative efficiency. That same track’s vocal – ‘thoughts running through my head, some are good, some are not bad…’ – is clipped awkwardly to loop without end, fading backwards and forwards in the mix to pursue a paranoiac lament. Some tracks are more brutal still, a paralysing combination of doomrave synth riffs and bassquake kicks that burrows into the mind. ‘I Come By Night’ (whose title alone recalls Suburban Knight’s ‘Art of Stalking’ and ‘Nocturbulous Behaviour’) in particular exhibits a Frankfurt dystopianism redolent of Marc Acardipane. The four four pummel of kick drum is replaced on ‘Phototype’ with a degraded Apache break that feels like being under permanent fire from second world war shelling.

The final two tracks hence listen like a post-military comedown, striking a calmer and more hopeful tenor and, on ‘V1OMF! / The Filler’ in particular, constituting a return of sorts to the sound of previous outing The Traveller. The synth arpeggios of that album’s ‘Leave Things’ return here, though more languid, and this time underpinned by a rolling two step shuffle that reimagines classic Horsepower Productions through a dayglo sheen. ‘Follow the Leader’ meanwhile, adds piano chords over lush strings and a throbbing heartbeat skitter, closing the album in decidedly incongruent style. Though out of place, it acts as a balm to a collection of tracks that are physically and mentally demanding, a welcome release from the feeling of being straitjacketed inside the disturbed mind, not of a killer, but of a victim of sonic warfare.

Toby Bennett

Reader Comments (1)

The keep of Kafka's castle??!?! :O)

August 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJean Michel Genre

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