- Sendai is the collaboration between Belgian techno producer Peter Van Hoesen and sound designer Yves De Mey. The project first emerged in 2009 via Van Hoesen's Time To Express label. The System Policy and Sustaining the Chain EPs were bass-heavy techno stompers in line with PVH's solo work, spruced up with De Mey's ear for detail—but then the duo went silent. After reconvening on last year's T2X label compilation, the duo performed a live PA at Berghain (made available online). The new sound was much more in line with De Mey's Sandwell District mini-album Counting Triggers, waves of intricate patterns undulating in a fractured path that owed more to classic IDM than, say, Tresor.
That's not to suggest that Sendai's debut album Geotope isn't techno, but it's rather like something you might hear on Raster-Noton, loaded with digital clicks, extreme frequencies and washes of drone. The album's most otherwise peaceful track, the rumbling closer "Emptiness of Attention," features high-frequency screeches in its peripheries (a trademark of De Mey's work), like blasts of ultraviolet light eating through the track's metal hull. The beats never come easy either: opener "Terminal Silver Box" has a pulse buried deep, but instead of a snare it's adorned with electrified bursts of distortion, and "EP2010-4" has frantic percussive elements that feel like they're desperately trying to avoid the track's growling low-end.
Overall, though, Geotope is as much an ambient album as it is a noise album as it is a techno album. There's no denying the propulsion in some of these tracks, but there's equally no denying that something like "A Refusal to Celebrate a Statistic Probability," with its bars that rev to an earth-shaking crawl at their close, is foreboding and drained of momentum, like Shed's "The Praetorian" gone evil.
Upon close scrutiny each track is built up from a litany of shifting pixel sands and slippery programming, the kind of beats where you can't tell if those slight jagged edges are accidents or just attention to detail. It works best when the duo hold nothing back, as on the Autechre-esque "Further Vexations," which pairs staticky, ear-shredding snares with the album's most physical kick drum, for something that feels tactile but totally untouchable.
For all its variety, Geotope suffers an identity crisis at occasional points: it's an unusual journey through some of the most physical yet most stridently digital sounds you could imagine, but it has a tendency to just sit there and twiddle its thumbs (or knobs), which can grow tiresome over the course of six minutes. An evaluation of Geotope is dependent entirely upon expectations: they're not doing the accessible techno of "Sustaining The Chain" anymore, but their more challenging material has plenty to sink your teeth into, if you can maintain your grip with diligence. Like Xhin's Sword, it's techno dressed up in extreme, almost incomprehensible complexity.
01. Terminal Silver Box
02. Following the Constant
03. A Refusal to Celebrate a Statistical Probability
04. Win Trepsit/Brief Delay
05. Further Vexations
08. Emptiness of Attention