Shed ShedThe Traveller
René Pawlowitz occupies a one-of-a-kind space in modern techno. Under his production as Shed, he’s shown deep reverence for the past without clinging to the overly nostalgic or derivative. On “The Traveller”, he continues what he started on 2008’s “Shedding The Past”, isolating and deconstructing elements of vintage techno and reassembling them into terse, future-looking arrangements of immense depth. This time, Shed’s focus is on breakbeat shuffles and proto-rave euphoria of early 90s UK techno. Despite the retrospection, the 14 tracks on the album sound somehow, indisputably, now.
Like its predecessor, “The Traveller” presents itself as a statement, meant more for rumination than dancing. And, as the title suggests, it’s a solitary and solemn voyage. Most of the songs pass through 30 seconds of beatless ambience before any structure takes hold. “The Bot” achieves levity early on, with eerie synth tones that hang in midair for dozens of measures. The druggy response mimics a slow breathing pattern, and eventually the whole song is overtaken by bone-crunching, halftime bass hits.
As a staffer at Berlin’s venerable Hardwax record store, Pawlowitz knows techno. Whether he’s producing as Shed, EQD, Wax, or The Panamax Project, he drops subtle references to just about every development in techno, from mid-90s German minimalism to present day UK dubstep. Yet for as prolific as he is, his production lives by restraint and reduction. The song “Final Experiment” illustrates this efficiency. The low, mid, and high ends reach capacity with just four sound sources. And often it’s the echoes, white noise, and other detritus of sonic material that transform into rhythmic elements, like the fuzzy sheets of blank noise on “My R-Class”.
The multiple stretches of atmospherics on the album don’t obscure the fact that Shed is primarily a beat maker. Shuffle time drum programming on “Atmo-Action” hits with the physicality of four-to-floor pounce while occupying only a fraction of the space. Ragged breakdowns on “Keep Time” thrive on the upbeat, in eighth note crashes. On the few tracks that do employ a 4/4 beat, like the head-rushing “Hdrtm”, the crackling, spindly high hats are just as fierce as the downbeat.
“The Traveller” is brief, yet vast, with equal stretches of calm serenity and focused intensity. Few of the tracks will be used to rattle clubs. One that will, “Hello Bleep”, will do so with a narcotic mix of angelic choir, crunchy percussion, and throbbing bass. It deserves to be longer. The whole album does. But Shed has signaled he’s not out to exaggerate more than necessary.
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