The essence of art lies as much between its elements as in them. A sensory response is elicited through the intuitive evaluation of a work's components in relation to one another moreso than of the components themselves. It is not so much the hues or lines of a painting as their combination, not so much individual frames or scenes but their succession - notes or chords but their sequence - that resonate within us.
As charting the development of a painter through an awareness of the work that came before brings a deeper understanding of that which is to be experienced now, so too the knowledge of a musicians ouvre allows us to deduce more precise interpretations of output most current by relating it to its predecessors. In this light, for many The Traveller must have come as a shock. For those familiar with Shed's previous album Shedding The Past or his releases under the pseudonyms Wax and EQD, a further departure from those sounds could not more have been imagined. A certain trait remains constant, however: as in Ben Klock's album One, the individual sounds are unmistakably richly crafted. One of the most exciting and valuable aspects of electronic music is its capacity to infinitely manipulate sounds themselves, far more vast than classical instruments alone. Of particular note throughout the album is the variety contained within The Traveller's basslines which wobble, shake and pound; not forgetting the arpeggiators and synth pads which form an entirely original sound-set, despite their oft spacey connotations. The theme of variety is applied as much to the genres found in the album as well as to its sounds. Whereas - despite the freshness of each track - Shedding The Past remained firmly within what Rene Pawlowitz's refer's to himself in the track 'Waved Mind' as "True Techno Music," part of The Traveller's attraction (and downfall) is how many styles it cycles through: Dubstep, Dub Techno, Drum & Bass, Techno.
As Will Lynch in his Resident Advisor review once rightly pointed out: it is an album so aptly named for the journey on which it takes the listener. As with any such experience, the chances of not appreciating each stage as much as the last are great: but just going somewhere is part of the attraction. That it - in all its boldness - ventures far from a much lauded style of music bears testament to Rene's merit as an innovator. The artists the world remembers are those that break from convention. To do so is no guarantee of immortality, but to dare is to display a courage and belief in one's art, affirms a notion of artistic vision and an understanding of the bigger picture: current trends and norms, and how to subvert or reinvent them.
Ultimately then, The Traveller is worth listening to for a number of reasons, despite its superficial inaccessibility. Pay attention to the richness of the individual sounds, styles and how they relate to one another - not just in each track, but across the album: not just in the album but throughout Rene's career. The album gathers momentum as it progresses: the first track here is the eighth, followed by those that close it. How you finish an album is more important than how you start it, and this pairing is one of the strongest, most beautiful endings I know. Strings that slowly grow soar across a complex, undulating and dynamic arpeggiator, abruptly ruptured by razor-sharp drums and thunderous bass. As with the entirety of the album, each track is tantalizingly short. Applied to a tumultuous finish, this minimalism leaves one wanting. For this sensation to be felt, however, I implore you to listen to The Traveller in its entirety.