- It's probably an understatement to call Shawn Rudiman underrated. The Pittsburgh techno artist has been making music since 1990, the year he bought his first machine—a keyboard that now forms part of the vast armada of gear in his bunker-like studio. Toiling away in the decades since then, he's released dozens of records—some bouncy and jacking, some more introspective, many of them exceptional—but his reputation scarcely reaches beyond the circles of heads who consider him a hero. Luckily for him (and his listeners), Rudiman is the kind of artist who would make music even if no-one heard it. In a video promoting his new album, he calls the creative process his "therapist." In 2016, when he released a bundle of old tracks in the Synthdrome Vault Archives, he said he did so "with a bit of sadness," as if he were seeing his teenage children off to university. "That is what they are to me," he wrote, "my children."
Timespan, a new compilation on Pittsburgh Tracks, draws recordings, most of them unreleased, from every era of Rudiman's catalog. Where Synthdrome Vault Archives felt off-the-cuff, Timespan is a closely considered and lovingly designed product, especially the vinyl version, where each side hits a different part of Rudiman's sound. The first record is pure rave heat—the A-side more electro-flavored, the B-side more techno, but neither neatly fitting those descriptions. "Ultrafrequey," despite its fiendishly quick rhythm (138 BPM), has a housey streak, with bright chords and the word "freak!" on every measure. "75 All The Way" has the same kind of rich contrast, with blunted synths hovering over a rowdy electro beat.
The second record is totally different, beginning with the three-part "TimeFrame"—two lush dub techno groovers followed by a kind of glittering synthapella. The final tunes split the difference between what's come before. "Detachable Needs" is techno with the sloshing motion of a stormy sea. "In Light / In Darkness" and the digital-only "Turn Bad," two cuts of languorously slow dub house, finish the collection on a chilled note—a far cry from the storming energy with which it began.
There's an element of mystery in the titular timespan of this collection—these tracks are so consistent that it's almost hard to believe you're hearing a career-spanning compilation. "Some songs are almost two decades old," Rudiman says in a note on the album. "Some are fresh. It's a paragraph written with words that have years between them. Somehow they still all sort of make sense together." That, too, would be an understatement.
01. 75 All The Way
02. Electro Days
04. Memory Pool
05. TimeFrame 1
06. TimeFrame 2
07. TimeFrame 3
08. Detachable Needs
09. In Light / In Darkness
10. Turn Bad (Digital Exclusive)