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Shed - The Killer

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Artist: Shed

Album: The Killer

Label: 50 Weapons

Review date: Jul. 23, 2012

Time and again, Rene Pawlowitz has shown just how little he cares: for his personal legacy; for the sound and personae of Ostgut Ton comrades like Marcel Dettmann or Ben Klock; for the endurance of the Berghain mystique; for paying respects at the historical altars of techno, house and club music in general. The man known as Shed comes off in interviews either as so overwhelmed by press attention that he resorts to dismissiveness as a defense mechanism or as an isolationist so removed from contemporary dance culture that the jig becomes pinpointing his blind spots.

Take his Listed feature from 2008, for instance. He didn’t know that Future Sound of London track for over a decade, didn’t think dubstep was “that cool” when it first emerged (and this was before Deadmau5 and Skrillex), and most of his picks come from his own clubbing experiences in early-’90s post-Wall Germany. By pleading ignorance like this on the regular, he owns his own history, folding a panoramic interview about Berghain, Panorama Bar and Berlin back in on itself, curtly and continually redirecting the spotlight with dead end after dead end. It’s not all that convincing — the guy used to work at Hard Wax, after all — but it’s a neat trick that makes for an interesting read.

Good copy doesn’t tell the whole story, though. Pawlowitz’s forthrightness isn’t reflected at all in the music he makes as Shed. His tracks as EQD or The Panamax Project or WK7 are all wonderful for what they are, sure, but they don’t invoke the same breadth of emotion or study of technique in the same way that his primary alias does because they don’t remind you of anything so much as what ground we’ve already covered. If his other aliases are a kiss-off to that past through duplication, Shed is the unbending future that keeps him (and us) going.

The Killer is his third full-length and first for Modeselektor’s 50Weapons label under the name. It follows 2008’s Shedding the Past and 2010’s The Traveller, both chronologically and spiritually as an idiosyncratic view of techno, mainly, but dance music writ large as well. The Killer’s not as sinister as the title suggests, but it is pensive and exploratory, covering similar ground to kindred spirit Actress on R.I.P earlier this year. Every song comes with an opaque sonic burden, weaving stray ghosts like piano house (“Follow the Leader”), IDM (“Silent Witness”) and lo-fi ambient (“Gas Up”) together tightly with the threads of dubstep and techno’s darkest side. It succeeds, unequivocally, as usual.

What I’m noticing most with The Killer — and maybe this is why it resonates stronger with me than either R.I.P or his own previous albums — is how openly moody it is. Percussion aside, the mindset of these songs is very much in Burial territory and no downcast thought goes incomplete. Song titles suggest there’s a storyline here and the music backs it up, shifting in tone from the brittle and hostile beats of the first three tracks (and first third of the album’s runtime) to the melancholy, increasingly unguarded feel of the remaining eight songs and half-hour’s worth. The transition is subtle but significant, luring in listeners rather than keeping them at arm’s length as Actress tends to do.

It’s funny how Pawlowitz’s cavalier attitude toward music has worked in his favor. He only works on songs when he already knows how they should sound, doesn’t think twice about tossing genres together at will, and seems unfazed by sonic debts. One of my favorite quotations from Pawlowitz — and there are plenty to choose from — comes from a Little White Earbuds interview where he sums up his M.O. this way: “[I]t’s not a hobby that I sit down searching for new sounds or new drums. It’s not what I do. I make it, I simply make it.” These are the words of a man behind one of the year’s most complete artistic statements, the words of a true original. Follow the leader.

By Patrick Masterson

Other Reviews of Shed

Shedding the Past

The Traveller

Read More

View all articles by Patrick Masterson

Find out more about 50 Weapons

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