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Lawrence - The Absence of Blight

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Artist: Lawrence

Album: The Absence of Blight

Label: Dial

Review date: Mar. 15, 2004

It’s all in the artwork: clouds captured in grayscale, subtly framed with branches stripped of their leaves by autumn’s deciduous drive, or etched into place by mottled, mold-scored walls and edifices. Disused train tracks coming to an endless end; overgrowth slowly grappling its way toward an old housefront; nature captured in circular wire spires or crab-grassed terracotta pots; walls giving way to salt-damp or rain-stain. All captured and photographed in overcast tones, the multifarious shades between the twin stations of black and white (100 versions of gray.) The titles scrawled in understated cursive, a study in self-effacement.

Lawrence, a.k.a. Peter M Kersten, is one of the Kompakt cabal’s arch melancholists, and The Absence of Blight is unashamedly a home listening variant on Kompakt’s more pragmatic releases. Although the artist shares ties with the Kompakt label’s combinatory aesthetic (pop + techno + shuffle + ambient + etc.) there’s a disavowal of funk-tionality at hand here, a recourse to gentler wiles. Kersten’s oblique structures recall, most of all, the sob-story arrangements of Carl Craig’s More Songs About Food and Revolutionary Art. It’s a post-Detroit, grace and refinement, top and tails versioning of modern German electronic music. This ties Lawrence to a grand continuum of ‘non-workable’ house that the Kompakt mother-ship let go of years ago. Unlike the schizoid drive of Kompakt’s Total compilations, or artist albums by Kaito or Jonas Bering, The Absence of Blight offers one strain, one color: a winter-mute, resolutely retractable gray.

Were Kersten’s music just a formalist mass of ‘intelligent electronic music’, life would be a lot easier. But like his forebear Carl Craig, Kersten’s music shows unpredictability within its tender, elegant steps. “Winter Green” and “Shelter” randomize his typical chord shifts, sounding out like a see-saw negotiating its way around a zero-gravity chamber. But even these moments are rendered soft-focus, shot with a smeared lens. The soft plumes of sound that buttress the untitled fourth track recall the sadly beautiful minimalist endeavour of Arvo Pärt’s work; following track “Last Friday” takes a snippet from Erik Satie’s Trois Gymnopédies and loops it into eternity, sending small melody-shivers spiraling out from its drowsy, resonant core. “Neighborhood” drops pendulous chimes into a whorl of blue-eyed tones. The cumulative effect is that of watching a tear slowly negotiate the pock-marks, crevices and pores of an illuminated face, projected on a midnight movie screen.

By Jon Dale

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