For an artist with so many aliases, it's striking how instantly recognizable Shed's music can be. Whether he's doing straight-up techno, dubstep or the abstract vignettes of his last album The Traveller, the stony-faced stare of Rene Pawlowitz is never too hidden. But with two albums under the Shed moniker so markedly different from each other, and a growing universe of pseudonyms, there was a big question mark looming over The Killer, the third Shed album and first on 50 Weapons. What would it sound like? The answer: like a Shed album.
That's not just lazy prose—maybe it's because we've all gotten to know him so well over the past half-decade, but there's little on The Killer that comes as a surprise, which is a surprise in itself. The Killer opens with a four-minute ambient wash of simplistic Detroit chords, a cloud of amorphous melody that engulfs the entire soundstage. More than anything else, the tracks on The Killer are driven by these deliriously repetitious melodies, whether it's in the wispy interlude "Gas Up" or the brutal sadistic throb of "I Come by Night," where synths flutter delicately in the background despite the percussive carnage. The instant familiarity of something like "You Got The Look" is bewildering: when the drums move in methodic tandem with the billowing melodies in the background, your mind's bound to wander to several different Pawlowitz tracks, wondering which particular one is being called to mind.
The fact that you'll never quite put your finger on it is simultaneously worrying and mystifying. The Killer seems to reveal a pattern on Pawlowitz's part, yet it somehow remains every bit as viscerally captivating as his best material, a formula still as cryptic as it ever was. It's easy to imagine any other number of artists aping the sound of The Killer and simply faceplanting. In a strange way, that's The Killer's magician's trick: if someone asked you what Shed sounded like, it'd be hard to find something more exemplary than this album. It recalls a different part of his past at every turn but holds enough variety to still engage even the most devout of followers.
The other Shed hallmark is as omnipresent as ever: those curiously dangling, constantly askew breakbeats that range from pummeling to rapturous. The most inventive aspect of his musical personality, they're rave nightmares borrowed and re-contextualized into lullabies and Detroit bangers. They weigh down most of the tracks in one way or another, sometimes leaden and unfriendly (the po-faced, rigid "Silent Witness") and other times bathed in ethereal light (the airy, almost elastic float of "Phototype").
When The Traveller came out in 2010, much of the narrative surrounding it focused on how it was more challenging than the "true techno" of his previous output. The Killer is challenging in a different way because it presents a restless and mercurial artist whose own prolificacy has somehow left him steeped in precedent. For that reason, it's hard to greet The Killer with the kind of dumbfounded praise that accompanied the first two albums. Thankfully for Pawlowitz, he's got such an iron grip on his own sound and execution that even a rote exercise transcends most other dance music.
Tracklist: Shed - The Killer 01. STP3/The Killer
02. Silent Witness
03. I Come By Night
04. Gas Up
05. Day After
07. The Praetorian (Album Mix)
08. Ride On
09. You Got the Look
10. V10MF!/The Filler
11. Follow The Leader
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