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Shed - The Traveller

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Artist: Shed

Album: The Traveller

Label: Ostgut Tonträger

Review date: Aug. 24, 2010


Shed - "Leave Things" (The Traveller)


On his second album as Shed, Rene Pawlowitz once again brings into question what we mean when we talk about techno. Thanks to the dominance of minimal in the last decade or so, techno has been equated with spindly, slinking suaveness — all twinkling diodes, discreet chug and thinly-sliced frequencies. Elegantly modular or starkly abstract— s uch as Pawlowitz’s own Wax side-project — it can often be irritatingly simplistic and parched.

But listening to The Traveller, an alternate conception of techno surfaces. An employee of Hard Wax, Berlin’s seminal dance music emporium, Pawlowitz is certainly approaching the genre with an informed perspective, albeit with no crate-digger’s fetishism. The Traveller, like Shed’s debut Shedding the Past, is expansive, nearly kaleidoscopic, in its definition of techno.

Brimming with varied rhythms and tempers — particularly lapses of scurrying breakbeats and filigreed synth trails that never feel retro — Shed explores a template left untested for years: the post-Detroit eclecticism of 1990s Northern European dance music from bleep through to drums and bass.

In an era when many techno acts have reduced themselves to a handful of tricks and signature tropes, Shed goes broad-spectrum. Difficult to pigeonhole, he defies needle-drops. And much like his debut, The Traveller is eclectic enough to pass for a compilation. By its third track — after an ethereal opener and the pressurized shutter-snap strut of “Keep Time” — Pawlowitz dials down the listener’s biorhythms with “The Bot,” all dubby plunges and staggered skulk with flashes of crashing breaks. An even more wonderful surprise comes in the effluvial “Atmo-Action,” with its trestle of vaporous synths swirling through an AFX-crusted mesh of buckled-metal beats. A similar sense of effusion surges through “Final Experiment,” which swells and swishes like a ticking clock built from salt water and soap bubbles. Less propulsive than Shedding the Past, the new album is often more introspective, permitting for the beat-less contemplation of viscous textures and chiming sonorities.

Pawlowitz brings a bit of the twitchy lurch of The Panamax Project — another of his side-gigs, this one exploring dubstep — to tracks like “Mayday,” which drags itself on a skulking course under a radiant cascade of steel-plated jellyfish. Though Shed is often fond of compacting — welding together disparate rhythms into vertiginously dense clusters — he goes long on “My R-Class.” It may not run more than five minutes, but the track makes due with a shuddering single-note arpeggio that toggles between a sharp drone and choppy jabber. Pawlowitz’s answer to minimal, it pursues a single idea with restraint and resourcefulness.

Its opposite is rendered in “Leave Things,” the album closer awash in tingly, curling synths and jagged breaks. Poignancy with no saccharine aftertaste or po-faced somberness, it’s Shed’s breathless brand of techno at its most succinct.

By Bernardo Rondeau

Other Reviews of Shed

Shedding the Past

The Killer

Read More

View all articles by Bernardo Rondeau

Find out more about Ostgut Tonträger

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