Thursday, May 12, 2011
For such a well-respected artist, Rene Pawlowitz seems extraordinarily unfussy. While other producers tool around in the studio for hours trying to find the right tones and timbres, Pawlowitz says he just gets an idea in his head, sits down and executes it. His swift approach is not lost on the final product; listening to The Traveller you don't picture him second guessing himself very much, belaboring the placement of a snare or the curve of an envelope. Each song, though very intricate, is clear, concise and unembellished, doing just what it needs to do and then ending.
Intentional or not, The Traveller is a fitting title: the album never stays in one place for long. With most records, you reach a point a few tracks in where the artist has more or less revealed his hand, making what's to come, at least stylistically, fairly clear. Pawlowitz doesn't let this happen. In fact, for the first part of the album it's like he's deliberately faking out his audience: a heavy momentum gets going early with "Keep Time," the record's clubbiest song, then abruptly drops off with "The Bot," a slow, atmospheric piece with a syncopated beat that takes four minutes to kick in. Pawlowitz keeps up this non-linear narrative for the rest of the album, skipping through tempos, moods and time signatures without much issue, until eventually arriving at "Leave Things," a 160 BPM drum & bass indulgence.
At first pass the album might not sound as rich as Shedding the Past, Pawlowitz's excellent debut album from 2008, but really it's just a bit less flashy. That long player was packed with lush imagery and emotive chords, but The Traveller has more to offer in the way of subtle detail. That said, the record is by no means cold and emotionless: the title track provides a nice dose of soothing ambiance, "No Way!" breaks things up with its carefree, slightly delirious mood and "Atmo – Action" evokes the epic melancholy of Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works. Then there's "44A (Hardwax Forever!)," the unabashed ode to Berlin's most well-loved record shop, whose euphoric arpeggios betray just how important the place really is to Shed.
In the three years or so since his last album, Pawlowitz has garnered a lot of acclaim for his WAX and EQD series, through which he releases expertly crafted club tracks. Listening to The Traveller, it seems like he used these channels to get all the bangers out of his system, leaving the more exploratory work to be done as Shed. The aforementioned club tunes are great, but Pawlowitz is most innovative within the open framework of the long-player—where WAX and EQD attempt to perfect an already established formula, Shed transcends the formulas altogether, and more so on his new album than ever before. He's gone on record saying he finds most techno today boring and too structurally rigid. On The Traveller, he presents a very convincing alternative.
Title: Shed – The Traveller
Review on RA
Shed on Discogs
EQD on Discogs
Wax on Discogs