Few names resonate with electronic music quite like that of René Pawlowitz. The name doesn’t ring a bell? How about EQD, WK7, Head High, Evil Fred, Wax, Craft, or Zigg Gonzales? Still nothing; how about Shed? That’s gotten your attention. Germany’s renaissance man of modern Techno has ticked all the boxes across various of club music genres to arrive at a version of each stripped to its bare mechanics. Where the cardinal and the tenacious dwell, that’s where Pawlowitz’ music resides.
He’s an obstinate producer and DJ, playing on the fringes of club music with an idiosyncratic voice and although many have tried to replicate that voice, none have succeeded. His music is minimalists in the way of a concrete tower; bold, steadfast and brutal in an unassuming way. A Hardwax affiliate, he epitomises the sound of modern Techno and plays no small part in its extensive popularity today through releases on Ostgut Ton, Monkeytown and his own aptly named Soloaction records amongst various others in a list too long to mention here.
Pawlowitz’ artistic identity is so wrapped in the Techno genre that when Resident Advisor interviewed him in 2017 the only title for that article would only ever be “Definitely Techno”. He transposes his idiosyncratic sound to the live stage and his DJ sets, across his aliases with a view of Techno in its broadest possible sense yet as Resident Advisor so aptly put it, “definitely Techno.”
“His output as Shed marries the lush textures of Detroit techno to an immediacy and bass-weight borrowed from rave and hardcore.” established Crack Magazine in an interview with the artist. For enthusiasts and DJs alike, Pawlowitz and he’s many aliases are synonymous with the Techno genre in almost every perceptible way, to the point where the two are hardly distinguishable. “The reason his name is linked to Techno (has) gotta be because of Hardwax, Ostgut, Berlin and so on”, says Void- and Jæger resident and Oslo’s go-to Techno DJ, Jokke.
As one of Oslo’s most prominent Techno figures, Jokke too is not spared the universal appeal of the German producer’s music, and Shed and his various aliases make significant contributions to the DJ’s own collection.”I like his sound. It stands out, like a bass/techno fusion that actually works. As a DJ, you will always hear old rave gems you’ve never heard before.” Opening up for Shed in our basement this week, we asked Joke to put this in to perspective for us with a few seminal records from the René Pawlowitz discography.
Picking through his own record collection, Jokke sent us a handwritten note with some of his essential Shed picks.
Shed – 7m (Red Planet Express)
Released in 2004, this is one of several releases produced that year from the artist, a year that saw the artist, DJ and producer Shed become a household name among DJs and fans alike. A big room kick drum is swathed in abundant layers of atmosphere, echoing the concrete facade of an industrial building co-opted as a modern Techno club in what quickly became Shed’s signature sound.
Shed – Another wedged Chicken (Shedding the past)
Taken from Shed’s debut album, “Shedding the past”, “Another Wedged Chicken”, showcases Shed’s innate ability for the album format. With hardly a kick drum in hearing distance, it’s definitely an album track, but drop this in the middle of a Techno set and it will certainly grab the entire dance floor’s attention.
Much of Shed’s universally acknowledged relationship with the Techno genre is tied with his affiliation with Berlin Techno institutions Hardwax and Ostgut Ton, who are also of course Berghain. Berghain’s own reputation as the bastion of uncompromising Techno is in parts even down to Shed bringing a maximalists quality to the genre in what was then quite a minimalist age.
Head High – It’s a love thing (Sigg Gonzales island mix)
Just when you thought Pawlowitz was an immoveable Techno artist, he makes a House track. Head High is the producer’s House alias, but as if to completely dispense with any myths and common tropes in House music, his Head High alias is in many ways much harder than the stuff he produces as his various Techno aliases. Head High strips back House music to its raw mechanics which he takes to the extreme here on “It’s a Love thing” as his Sigg Gonzales alias in this mix. That familiar atmospheric kick is everywhere in this track too, but with syncopated hats and a R&B vocal sample, it clearly has designs on House music.
Evil Fred – Get On
A rarified record from Pawlowitz, this alias only made one record on H2 back in 2013 before being resigned to the Shed annals. This is Pawlowitz on a Tech House tip with two-step garage influences echoing in the distance. It’s one of Pawlowitz more curious releases, but yet you can still hear that acute mastery of atmosphere on this record. Although a very minimalist record with merely a percussive arrangement, the elements combine to give it a larger than life character.
Craft – Time will tell
Pawlowitz ‘s fleeting nature with electronic music can’t merely contained as Shed, and he’ll often create new monikers for a single release like the aforementioned Evil Fred record. Craft is a most recent creation, and through it he made this ambient masterpiece for the Ascetic Limited label in 2017. There’s a cinematic charm to this record that brings us back to that defining character in Pawlowitz’ music, atmosphere. The synthetic layers are quite reserved, with only a few parts, playing counterpoint with each other, but like every Shed release, he seems to be able to get the most out of very little.
WK7 -Rhythm 1
In the same year he released that Craft record, Rhythm 1 came out via the Power House label, showing yet another, different side to the Pawlowitz palette of sound. A House track with big trancy synths in situ, Rhythm 1 touches on the hedonistic heights early UK rave with a modern twist. There’s a deep dub-infused bass rolling in deep waves below the track, and as ever he manages to find an allotted space for diverse, often contrasting parts in his productions. It’s his skill as a producer, that has made Pawlowitz such an appealing figure over records; DJ’s snapping up his records eagerly because of the knowledge that they will sound immense over a large Funktion one system.
Wax – 50005 a1
And now for something completely different… here’s Pawlowitz’s Wax alias with some Dub Techno. Offering a repose from the formidable percussive workouts of his other aliases, this is probably the furthest away from Pawlowitz signature sound as Shed with 808 kicks and lethargic pads looping to affinity in a very controlled and introspective manner.
Shed – Taken Effect (Final Experiments)
Taken from Shed’s last album on Monkeytown records, it’s a record that apparently makes a nod to the nineties, “when it blurred into rave, ambient, home-listening electronica” according to Joe Muggs in RA. It’s a far more reserved interpretation of Techno with luscious pads and sidewinding acid leads, creating a whirlpool of atmosphere that sucks you through the track and the album. It’s not some nostalgic re-hashing of Techno’s past, but rather a modern interpretation again, with Shed’s presence firmly embedded in that familiar atmosphere where large percussive arrangements echo in the foreground of a very minimalist arrangement.
*Jokke and Frederik Bekkåsen open up for Shed this Friday.