Peter Van Hoesen, Entropic City

[Time To Express]

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If you’ve followed this website even casually, it won’t stun you to read that I consider Entropic City an exemplary album from one of the most vital voices in techno today. LWE dubbed Brussels’ Peter Van Hoesen one of 2008’s “Breakout Artists” and, for his lengthy run of singles last year, we heralded him as one of five “Artists Who Defined 2009.” With quicksilver bass lines coursing beneath their rough, brambly surfaces, Van Hoesen’s shadowy warehouse tracks have long capitalized on an air of urban dystopia. The ten tracks grouped here, though, show off the producer’s experience in sound design better than ever, and the neglected Gotham skylines and abandoned, lightless interiors evoked prove vivid sonic descriptions of the title chosen for his first album under his own name (though the producer seems to have additionally mined the less figurative, thermodynamic definition for inspiration).

From the drawn-out freight elevator descent of “Intro Entropy” — ominous with creaks, lurches, and rumbling, unabated vibrations — the album’s sixty-minute immersion in a focused template of post-industrial sounds leaves an undeniable impression of setting. It’s a record constructed of asphalt and rebar, its surfaces marred by rust, grime, peeling paint, and water damage. Van Hoesen has spoken before of an added layer of “dirt” used to texture his tracks, but here that layer has been promoted from its adjunct position to drive the style and character of an album that sounds just as its cover looks. The low-BPM-count “Republic” is heavy with guttural, almost animal groans, scissoring machine noises, and corroded metallic melodies, playing like a panning shot of some neglected refinery. It’s evocative and easy to get lost in. Properly head-swimming on a good set of headphones, “Testing a Simulacrum” teems with a multitude of grainy audio artifacts uncertain but familiar. A heavy, determined beat pulses all the while, but as though emanating from somewhere off in the distance.

While the album can absolutely claim a cohesive mood, variation isn’t abandoned as a priority. The airy, upbeat “Dystopian Romance” doesn’t immediately announce itself as a Van Hoesen creation — if it weren’t for that signature bass work, anyway. “Colony/Return of the Object” recalls last year’s “Resol” with a foray into anxious dubstep and jungle territory. And on “Terminal,” ravey, distress-signal keys burst through the match-strike percussion and dual bass lines. Even the grim industrial drone and tension-in-traction of “Closing The Distance/Toy Universe” eventually emits flickers of silver dub chords and LED blips of melody.

And, of course, there are pure warehouse “tracks” of clenched-jaw intensity. Van Hoesen’s perceptive sequencing gradually builds to a back-half heavy with most of the record’s biggest splashes. The record’s finest standalone track, “Strip It, Boost It,” is nearly anthemic. The steely hi-hats scrapes, gaping bass yawns, bent-spring twangs, jacking hand claps, and martial kick drums are typical ingredients in the producers’ work, but there’s a rare instability to their combination that’s exhilarating as the track seems perpetually on the verge of veering off the rhythmic grid. It’s followed by “Quartz #1,” a breathless race of syncopated shakers and a strobing kick, with some roller coaster EQ’ing to place it resolutely in the club, where this album’s more vigorous moments will doubtless figure memorably in the months to come. But even without the benefit of experiencing any of its tracks played through a high-end sound system at peak time, I have no hesitation saying that Entropic City is the finest techno album to come along in recent memory, and may prove to be the album distillation of a whole scene. And, to be sure, it’s secured Peter Van Hoesen a 2010 to match his last two celebrated years.

Pete Srdic  on April 20, 2010 at 1:56 PM

This is a GREAT album and one of the few techno albums that works as an album. Very much needs to be enjoyed on a good quality big system to appreciate all the nuances within. PVH is right on the mark with this and for me it stands tall alongside that other great techno album – Cio D’or’s Die Faser.

Blaktony  on April 21, 2010 at 1:03 PM

Nice one, Pete…. This “IS” a good album.


uberVU - social comments  on April 21, 2010 at 4:38 AM

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This post was mentioned on Twitter by time_to_express: RT @lilwhiteearbuds: Chris Burkhalter declares Peter Van Hoesen’s Entropic City is “the finest techno album to come along in recent memory.”

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