- "Warm" might be the word most often used in reference to Peter Kersten's music. It describes the gentle and welcoming aura of his tracks, but it could just as aptly be used in the Goldilocks sense, as in "not too hot, not too cold." As Lawrence, Kersten has made a career out of subdued house with a temperature range that sits between fiery heat and chilliness. On his latest album, Yoyogi Park, that moderation is both a blessing and a curse.
The cover art, drawn by Kersten's go-to illustrator Stefan Marx, depicts the album's titular mid-Tokyo oasis. Yoyogi Park is sparsely sketched, yet its lushness is evident, and these ten tracks largely follow suit. "Tensui" pairs its stripped-down rhythm with a rich, melancholic melody and shimmering piano, adding an atmosphere of bittersweet comfort. One of the many spectral moments, "Illuminated" is all cathedral chords punctuated by short bursts of iridescent keys. The loping breakbeats of "Ava," joined by percussive pings and a backdrop of muted synths, find a pleasing balance of velvety opulence and understated funk.
The downside to Kersten's hushed elegance is that the music can feel overly tame, particularly when taking in Yoyogi Park front to back. There's a hazy atmosphere that drifts throughout the tracks—hypnotic as it is, the fog can grow dull. "Joy Ride," with its shimmering synths and muted chords, is gorgeous but also a bit slight. "Blue Mountain" is one of the most propulsive cuts, but when stripped down to its beat and a rubbery synth, it nearly becomes invisible.
But Kersten has enough tricks up his sleeve to keep his music from fading completely into the background. On "Joy Ride," he layers on a Carl Craig-esque percussive phrase to give the wispy song an added dynamic. There are rich bass tones all over Yoyogi Park, grounding the music with a vital density. Without its low-end, "Nightlife" would be dreamy synth glissandos and little else. But underpinned by its thick bassline, those melodies become an ascending interval of house nirvana.
Yoyogi Park is at its best on the tracks where Kersten wanders out of his comfort zone. With its electro syncopation and jazz-tinged keys, "Simmer, " for instance, delivers some necessary angles; the jacking "Clouds And Arrows" is defined by a playful loop that exudes a fun disco-meets-Detroit vibe. Kersten is one of the best there is when it comes to this kind of dreamland house, but tracks like these make a strong case for him expanding his reach more often.
01. Marble Star
02. Nowhere Is A Place
06. Blue Mountain
08. Clouds And Arrows
09. Joy Ride