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White Noise: EQD – Equalized #111

Monday, 9 January 2012

EQD – Equalized #111




I recently had the chance to see Berlin-based producer Shed, who has released this collection under his EQD moniker, perform a live DJ set here in Paris. He followed the unique and technically astounding future-footwork of Machinedrum, whose contrasting melodies and lightning-fast percussive changes sounded almost unstable in their intensity, but his set couldn’t have been more different. Shed, aka Rene Pawlowitz, flicked a single switch and an enormous 4/4 kick filled the room, and then remained stationary for a few long moments. Gradually people started to feel the groove, their dancing taking on a curiously introverted quality. After a hypnotic minute or so, Shed made a single movement and a crisp snare entered the field, perfectly on time. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a crowd go so wild with whooping and applause. For the first time I felt the raw power of Techno, of a huge crowd entering as one into a single groove, and devoting their minds and bodies so completely to the sound that the tiniest addition causes a seismic shift in the experience. It is the same power that characterises Minimal and Deep House, where you lose yourself utterly and dance just as much with your mind as with your body.

It was after this enlightening experience that I picked up this LP, a retrospective collection of the best of Shed’s 12” releases as EQD. I’d heard a few of them over the last year as singles and occasionally dropped in the sets of my favourite DJs, but with new ears I approached these precise and hard-bodied compositions, imagining them booming out in a vast dancefloor where the crowd moved as one to these mechanical noises. I think ‘mechanical’ is a key word here as the uniform nature of how these sounds are selected and introduced makes one feel a part of something too precise and perfect to be entirely human, added to the obvious fact that the noises themselves sound like the inner workings of countless dark, hulking machines. Here we are offered ten fantastic examples of how Techno and its deviant forms sound at their best, and a great insight into the rapidly rising star of Berlin’s murky dance scene.

Of course, all this music and dance theory would be for nothing if the tracks themselves weren’t up to scratch, but thankfully this is far from the case. These tunes are not only composed with exquisite timing and fantastic effects that make you itch for the dancefloor, but they are also chock full of rewarding micro-edits and clever details that show a true master at the height of his game. I’ve seen more than one DJ say in interview that they don’t go anywhere without at least one Shed (/Wax / EQD) track in their bag, and it’s easy to see why. Take for example the dusty groove of 06, which like all the other tracks here offers a long DJ-friendly build-up, before introducing a muted skipping synth-line which twins with the crackling ambient effect to superb effect. It’s a great sound that Shed rightly allows to take centre stage, but just at the four-minute mark threatens to emerge more brightly from the ether, before swiftly receding to its previous position. It’s a minute detail, but when each track contains so few elements every detail is immediately noticeable and intensely satisfying.

The tunes here follow a formula, but this won’t be a surprise or a criticism for any Techno fans. Generally after a long build with a complex but unchanging percussive loop and a deep analogue hiss, Shed slowly incorporates one of his seemingly infinite amount of fantastic effects, all treated with the same harsh mechanical tweaking to lend the sound a strong coherence. At some point in the track he introduces a show-stopping sound; the woozy elastic synths of 01, the fantastic knife-sharp melodic line in 05, or the tumbling hard-nosed percussion of 04 combined perfectly with its squiggly synth-line. These centrepiece sounds aren’t always at the forefront of the track, for example on 08 the most impressive layer is the rapidly changing synth tones that lend the track a nerve-tweaking instability. The appeal of this winning formula is clear; it builds a heady anticipation where the build-up is of a very high quality in itself, before delivering just what the listener wants: something special to hold onto while they dance. But even after discovering the technique, Shed doesn’t universally apply it;  02 has a muted synth sequence duelling a serrated mechanical effect throughout its runtime to stellar effect, while on 10 rushing filtered synths overpower proceedings to create a phenomenal intensity.

For a casual home listener this is a formidable collection of Techno stompers, but that would be to ignore what this release is; a retrospective collating some of the very best dance tunes from one of the genre’s top producers. Every track on this album is confident and strong, and more than anything purpose-built for the dancefloor. I can’t imagine any LP more deserving to be in the collection of today’s Techno DJs.


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