Sten, The Essence


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Dial co-founder Peter M. Karsten is better known under his more prolific Lawrence alias, but his recordings as Sten are just as worthy of attention. His second full-length album, The Essence, compiles (on the CD version, at least; the LP version varies slightly) three previous singles (including his most recent, “Way To The Stars” and its two b-sides) alongside a handful of new tracks, resulting in one of the deepest long players of 2008.

Opener “The Essence” sets the template right away, as a dark, atmospheric wave gives way to a deep bass kick, hissing hi-hat, and crisp snare, conjuring the classic Detroit techno sound given a shiny new coat of black paint. Eventually, some lighter keyboard stabs and chords bubble to the surface, but this is most certainly a night drive soundtrack. “Unknown Faces,” the title track, and “The Gate” are stripped-down percussion-based tracks, while “More Stash” is a builder, working from the shifting foundations of echoed bass and percussion bounces, reminiscent of latter-day Plastikman work.

The three singles, as expected, are the most infectious things here. “Take Me To The Fridge,” originally released in 2006, deftly combines a treated vocal line, shimmering genie-like glissandos and a rubbery bass groove — an unlikely combo that gets under your skin more with each listen. But its chilly funk doesn’t fit with the rest of the material particularly well. A better fit is the electro-minded “Squares,” with its menagerie of overlapping bleeps and blips over a bed of space noises and a popping robo-beat. “Way To The Stars” closes the album on a definitive high note, as a Derrick May-inspired riff rises from a cosmiche swirl, a nifty summation of all that has come before.

Kersten creates a shadowy moodfrom the get-go and spends the rest of the album admiring the shapes thrown from the few spare sources of light. While his Sten material isn’t as club-friendly or immediate as his Lawrence work, it is certainly just as rewarding, especially when the lights are low.

chrisdisco  on October 8, 2008 at 12:51 AM

hmm. not sure i agree with much of this. his sten work is generally much more club friendly than his lawrence stuff i find (perhaps less so recently, but that is arguably because the lawrence stuff has become much less melancholic). also the ‘take me to the fridge’ track is rubbish. the one big black spot on karsten’s career. i have no idea why he included it on this release. finally, this is a very nice album. i enjoy listening to it. but. but it is nothing new for sten/lawrence. the soundscapes, arrangements etc are very familiar. there is very little new ground covered here, and that’s a shame given how immensely talented he is.

eric cloutier  on October 8, 2008 at 6:14 AM

out of the nine tracks, less than half of them i truely enjoy from start to finish. most of them seem disconnected and entirely random, most specifically “take me to the fridge.” i don’t remember hearing it two years ago, and if so, i probably instantly wrote it off due to that completely confusing bassline.

on that note, “squares” i absolutely love, as well as “way to the stars,” simply due to their throw-back approach to old chicago / detroit house flavour.

teleost  on October 8, 2008 at 6:25 AM

I’d listen to this on the strength of Squares alone. That whole EP is fantastic.

hutlock  on October 8, 2008 at 7:05 AM

I do defend and enjoy “Take Me to the Fridge,” but you’ll note that I do say above that it doesn’t fit on the album. I still think its a fine track though.

hutlock  on October 8, 2008 at 8:16 AM

Also of note: “Fridge” isn’t even on the LP version of the album, just the CD.

james kartsaklis  on October 8, 2008 at 9:24 AM

“take me to the fridge” is pretty awesome. i don’t know what everyone’s on about. it probably doesn’t fit the album, like hutlock says, but as a single it’s something very effective and weird.

Joe H  on October 8, 2008 at 9:34 AM

The album as a whole didn’t live up to expectation for me, I mean there are some good tracks but the album seems to be lacking that little bit extra. I’m not so sure that in a years time I will be looking back on this.

hutlock  on October 8, 2008 at 12:39 PM

The CD version at least plays more like a singles/B’s comp, and in that respect, I think it totally works.

AndrEY  on October 13, 2008 at 6:23 AM

I have enjoyed multiple listens beginning to end. Maybe because I haven’t heard any of the singles and this was totally new for me? I don’t care – it is great and fridge was a standout for me – It’s like Joakim in Chicago.

dor  on October 13, 2008 at 10:05 AM

just a small insight!

the original Take Me To The Fridge track, was quite “uptempo”. since Sten really likes the track and thought it might have been too fast,he wanted to show a slower housier side of the track.

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