Sendai, A Smaller Divide

Sendai

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Sendai, the collaborative project between Belgian techno oddballs Peter Van Hoesen and Yves De Mey, has grown steadily weirder with every release. Their two 12″s back in 2009, a banner year for Van Hoesen by all measures, worked in clubs but felt slightly uncomfortable there, like they were repressing their more abstract desires. Sendai’s 2012 full length Geotope focused more on sound design and only occasionally nodded toward the floor, distancing itself from most techno albums of the time and remaining engaging two years on from its release. With their new CD A Smaller Divide they’ve plunged fully into another place.

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Which is to say that there’s very little here that even tries to play into DJs’ hands. Opener “Capstan” even seems to take Geotope‘s most played track “EP2010-4” and throw it in the blender, breaking it down into shards of sound and reconstructing it during a manic episode. Autechre is easily the closest touchstone here — a phrase you’d expect to utter more often given the duo’s towering influence for over 20 years. A Smaller Divide adopts the structures and influence of Booth and Brown, but its sounds and methods are pure Sendai, full of the warm, prodding bass rubs that Van Hoesen so often imbues his tracks with, and the slowly evolving, spatial tones De Mey summons from his modular systems.

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The album’s strong start, from the aforementioned “Capstan” through the bright, almost anthemic “Second Uniform Estimate,” is tempered slightly by the album’s middle section, which spends time wandering through rooms full of intriguing sounds that stimulate the mind, but don’t always grab in the most visceral way (a problem Ae themselves often encounter). Those that do, however, are killers, such as the pounding, growing “A Smaller Divide” and the shattered groove of “Sequential Convex”. And then there are the last two tracks, setting the whole album on its head and forcing you to go back to the beginning and listen to it all again. “Norms of True Behavior” is nearly beatless, stargazing and carving out a space in Sendai’s sonic universe, while “Tetras Part” plays with frequency sweeps and rhythmic modulations (606 snare rolls speeding up and down) to delirious effect. A Smaller Divide creates an engrossing, curious world that extends both producers’ terrain well into the cosmos, exploring and encountering new shapes and textures that strict adherence to the floor would never unearth.

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