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Shed - Oderbruch Music Album Reviews

The techno artist discovers a softer, warmer side in an album named for his childhood home. 

Outside of Germany, most people likely haven’t heard of the Oderbruch. Situated along the Polish border, this former marshland was first drained during the 18th century by Prussian king Frederick the Great. A century later, the region played host to months of intense fighting at the end of World War II, including one of the Nazi regime’s final stands at the Battle of the Seelow Heights, the war’s biggest conflict on German soil.


That same soil is where René Pawlowitz, best known as Shed, was born and raised. His family has been based in the Oderbruch for generations, and Pawlowitz himself continues to split his time between Berlin and this largely rural area in which he grew up. Clearly, he feels a connection with the region, so much so that he’s dedicated his latest full-length to it.

Oderbruch is the fifth Shed album, and easily his most colorful. While Pawlowitz’s music has always been heavily rooted in the past—particularly the ’90s house, techno, and rave that soundtracked his teen years—he’s expanded his repertoire here, taking inspiration from nature while venturing into bucolic ambient and dewy-eyed synth swells. It’s an unexpected move from a producer best known for driving techno and cracking breakbeats—not to mention one who’s also always seemed like a relatively serious (if slightly grumpy) figure—but on Oderbruch, Pawowitz sounds downright refreshed.

With its fuzzy field recordings and joyous, marimba-like melody—a sound one usually wouldn’t expect to hear in a Shed track—the sprawling “Nacht, Fluss, Grille, Auto, Frosch, Eule, Mücke” (translation: “Night, River, Cricket, Car, Frog, Owl, Mosquito”) feels like a lazy walk alongside a babbling brook. Another beatless cut, the pensive “Der Wolf Kehrt Zurück” (“The Wolf Returns”), is a bit darker, but there’s genuine emotion living inside the song’s creeping synths and lingering patches of static.

Even when percussion is brought into the mix, Oderbruch still feels like something new for Pawlowitz. “Das Bruch” pairs a stuttering hip-hop beat with dreamy melodic pads, recalling the blissfully blunted sounds of beat scene stalwarts like Teebs and Nosaj Thing. With its plush—and slightly weepy—strings stretching across its hyperactive frame, “Trauernde Weiden" might be the album’s most epic moment.

In fairness,Pawlowitz’s work as Shed has always varied, and over the past decade-plus, he’s employed upwards of 20 different aliases while exploring different strains of electronic music. However, in the past few years his music has sometimes felt less innovative, mostly because his once-signature style has been so widely imitated. A decade ago, when techno producers everywhere were scrambling to recreate the stereotypical Berghain aesthetic of artists like Ben Klock and Marcel Dettmann, Pawlowitz was something of an outlier. These days, however, electronic music is rife with clever nods to the ’90s, not to mention the slamming, UK hardcore-style breabeats that have populated much of Pawlowitz's work. Perhaps that’s why his last album, 2017’s The Final Experiment, was greeted somewhat unenthusiastically; for many, it was just another Shed record amongst a vast sea of soundalikes.

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Oderbruch is not just another Shed record. The LP displays a warmer, softer side of Pawlowitz, and while the album is not without its bangers—opener “B1 (Anfang und Ende)” is a dynamic piece of chirping bleep techno, and “Seelower Höhen” is built atop a kick with all the subtlety of a battering ram—even those tracks rely upon lush pads and vivid melodies. “Sterbende Alleen” (“Dying Avenues”) ramps up the melodrama even further while bathing its jungle rhythm in a thick glaze of opulent synths. Although Pawlowitz isn’t known for tugging on heartstrings, he sounds comfortable during Oderbruch’s more cinematic moments.

Pawlowitz called his first album Shedding the Past. All these years later, the title still feels a bit ironic, especially coming from an artist whose work, even then, was so thoroughly tied up in his influences. Yet Pawlowitz’s music has never truly been a mere nostalgia exercise. In his mind, history—particularly his own—is just fodder to create something new. It’s undeniably a difficult tightrope to walk, and Pawlowitz had arguably begun to wobble as of late, but Oderbruch seems to indicate that he’s confidently regained his balance. Apparently, all it took was a trip home.


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About Udara Madusanka

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