Review Summary: Breakneck coastingShred
is cleverly titled, with both ironic and soul-seeking implications. To explain, “shred” is synonymous with high-octane skiing/snowboarding, though - and German techno producer Skee Mask might agree - the real thrill is more far-reaching than the snow and trees immediately in front of you. Often, the intensity of Skee Mask’s rhythmic manoeuvres are counterbalanced by the weight of the ambience, without exactly being
ambient music. It’s spiked adrenaline waned by constantly looking over one’s shoulders, where the sensation of losing oneself is fuelled by offsets of both internal and external energies. Opener “Everest” is an ascent, as the sounds of a heightened pulse synch up with each step, while the ambience mimics an environment that is both serene and impending. From then on, each track is a finely-crafted unity of man-made ambition and natural (though, synthetic…) draw. Some of techno’s strongest producers are capable of music blurring the line between mechanical and organic; here, Skee Mask’s is also geographic.
Impressively, SM maintains this balance despite varying intensities and styles: “HAL Conv.” moves with a slow, steady dub interlaced with soothing background noises; “Autotuned” is brooding jungle/ambient, as gyrating textures wash over the syncopated beats; “Shred 08” is bass-heavy, with rapid hi-hats and meandering synths. There really isn’t a weak track present, and Shred
’s faceless protagonist is a personification of record label Ilian Tape’s exploratory quality: techno that expands and contracts, drawing from a bevy of styles, yet still backtracking to a sound rooted in Munich. It’s difficult to really tie Skee Mask to any other contexts, as the producer’s background is unknown to most. Fortunately, the way the sounds on Shred
are accentuated, this ambiguity doesn’t inhibit the record’s lasting impact. His last effort, a four-track EP Junt
, crafted a tone both savage and cavernous; Shred
is the perfect expansion, both ambitious and calculated, but effortless in portrayal. It isn’t really a crowd-pleaser - meaning, the album seems to place a sole listener in its focal point, contently isolated yet addicted to adventure.
The more you navigate Shred
, strangely, the less you care about the finicky details of source material. Riding the high becomes more important than relishing the unpredictability of the beat work. Most songs, like “Zenker Haze Trak” and “Reshape”, operate at two frequencies: an energetic, rhythmic bliss and a series of sedated cascades. As some point in the tracklist - maybe album highlight “Melczop 2” - the latter frequency becomes more powerful than the former, regardless of how pronounced the beats are. On “Japan Air”, the punchy bass kicks are almost secondary to the wispy synths imitating the sensation of “surfing” the air with your hand through an open car window. That sums it up, really. Shred
captures the satisfaction of little breaks in the chaos, where time dilates a bit as you remove yourself from the methodical pace of your immediate surroundings only to plunge back in, renewed.