11 October 2010

Shed - The Traveller (Ostgut Ton)

Albums from dance music producers are always tricky business; do you churn out another set of beat-driven DJ tools, designed only for home listening techno heads, or forge off down experimental pathways, gaining critical acclaim and leaving nothing for DJs to meddle with? With 2008's Shedding the Past, Shed aka Rene Pawlowitz managed to hit both targets with a great mix of pure techno numbers and more experimental sketches and structures. This time round, it's a far more introspective affair - full of songwriting and expressive doodles and far less targetted for dancefloors. That's not to say it's a collection of pretentious 'movements' or meandering electronica - Pawlowitz continues to dissolve the boundaries between dubstep and techno, and the likes of Keep Time and Atmo - Action can be deployed across any DJ set, offbeat as they are. The Traveller throws a few wild curveballs throughout, and 44A (Hardwax Forever) opens not with a booming Berghain kick drum, but a sketchy, delay-heavy synth line - of course, once it melts down, it comes in with that deep technoid sound, arpeggiated flares of synth lifting it up to euphoric levels. Similarly, Leave Things totally detaches from the techno / dubstep ground he's previously occupied, and sees Pawlowitz surging forward, Analogue Bubblebath style, at 160bpm. The sounds and rhythms are so perfectly pulled off, AFX ought to be checking his home security. The Traveller is clearly a labour of love for Shed - the broad palette and (un)subtle homages demonstrate an artist really trying to pour everything of themself into one work. Tough going at times, and a lot harder to love if you don't get the references, but for those who love Berlin, techno and all things minimal, this is a beautifully instropective journey and a bloody great album.

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