Lawrence: Until Then, Goodbye
Mule Electronic

Anyone expecting a full-throttle “dance music” set from Lawrence on his fourth full-length will find something else altogether (the album follows on the heels of 2003's The Absence of Blight, 2005's The Night Will Last Forever, and a “best of” compilation, Lowlights From the Past and Future). If anything, Peter Kersten's latest collection (thriteen tracks, nine of them previously unreleased) moves in the opposite direction by downplaying the clubbier side of his Lawrence style for a wide-ranging, relaxed, and “listening” approach. By the Dial owner and Hamburg-based producer's own description, the album is “a colourful mixture of ambient pieces, acoustic live takes, and a few deep club tracks,” so no one be should be surprised going in to discover Until Then, Goodbye aims to be something more than a singularly-themed “ dance ” set. None of the tracks breaks a sweat either but that's par for the Lawrence course; as on his previous releases, Kersten opts for smooth pulsation over frenetic rave-up.

The album begins with a melancholy and beatless “intro version” of “Friday's Child” that's a harbinger of the album's wide-ranging character. The previously-issued “Sunrise” follows, quickly seducing the listener with its protoypical Lawrence mix of luscious synth treatments and echoing vibes flourishes. The also-memorable “Jill” sparkles with early-morning glory, its quietly locomotive shuffle bringing a welcome injection of energy—even if controlled—to the album and interlocking keyboard patterns adding a beatific glow. The later “In Your Eyes” comes as a more-than-welcome club throwdown, especially when Kersten embellishes the house groove with handclaps and a delicious bass thrust. If the track still evidences an air-tight degree of control, it's a rare uptempo moment on a generally laid-back collection. Though propelled by a seductively swaying rhythm, “Grey Light” strips the Lawrence sound to hand drums, bass, marimba, vibes, keyboard ripples in a relaxed electro-lounge style.

Other tracks find Kersten wending farther afield: “Father Umbrillo” offers an hypnotic percussion workout whose ostinato patterns are as indebted to Africa as they are Steve Reich; in “The Dream,” a wordless choir adds an ethereal dimension to an otherwise earth-bound arrangement of vibes, bass, and drums; and fireworks announce the promise of “A New Day” in a piano-centered mood-piece. “Don't Follow Me” swells nicely into a lounge-house setting but refrains from escalating into the kind of powerhouse club banger it so easily could become, if Kersten were to loosen the reins and allow it to do so. Timpani accents are added to an already-large percussion arsenal in “Until Then, Goodbye” to help bring the album to a rather sluggish close.

If there's one thing that stands out beyond the diversity of the material, it's the “natural” sound Kersten embraces throughout the hour-long set, with synthetic sounds downplayed and acoustic instruments emphasized. When a synthesizer does appear, it's more likely used as textural enhancement or as a silken complement to the total sound; needless to say, nary a synthesizer squeal appears, with Kersten ensuring the Lawrence sound remains, as ever, refined and sophisticated—a little too much so, some might argue.

September 2009