Lawrence: Films & Windows

Under the Lawrence name, Peter Kersten unquestionably makes some of the most exquisite and sophisticated ‘dance' music around. Films & Windows, his sixth full-length and first release on Dial Records (the Hamburg-based label he runs with Carsten Jost) in over ten years, won't alter that impression one iota: it's a ravishing, seventy-minute listen that shows Kersten hasn't lost a step in the sound design department. In keeping with the title (and as evidenced by the brief prelude “The Opening Scene”), the album draws its inspiration from “an endless number of screened movies and real-life films.”

Films & Windows truly begins, then, with “Marlen,” as fine an exemplar of the Lawrence style as any in the way it complements a solid rhythm base (in this case house) with elaborate atmospheric design, while “In Patagonia” goes even further in augmenting his synth-heavy sound with sleigh bells. But, as satisfying as such pieces are, they also reveal what one might call the identity crisis lurking at the heart of Lawrence's music, the fact that it's part of the dance music genre yet at the same time downplays the urgency, heat, and drive that characterizes dance music of the club kind. In short, while it certainly includes a rhythm dimension, a typical Lawrence track is less fixated on beat propulsion and more on pure sound design, making it a better fit for the temperature-controlled art gallery than the sweaty nightclub. His ‘ambient-house' style also exudes a rather static quality in hewing to a largely unchanging dynamic level throughout a piece, rather than building towards a climax. Depending on one's perspective, such things might not be problems at all and, if anything, might be cause for celebration in showing how Kersten's managed to find a way to stylistically distance himself from his musical peers.

All such musings aside, Films & Windows includes more than its share of splendid moments. “Etoile du midi,” for one, presents a gorgeous swirl of starlit synth motifs, vibes accents, and a bass-prodded house pulse that's punchier than the Lawrence norm. In addition, “Lucifer” nicely threads a memorable piano motif in amongst woodland synth textures and skipping techno groove, “Har Sinai” works up a swinging pulse that's about as steamy and funky as a Lawrence track gets, and the silken “Creator (Final Call)” features some of the album's most lustrous sounds. Just don't expect to be physically spent by the time the record's finished.

October 2013