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Sten - The Essence


Listeners to the Bleep43 podcast will know that I’ve been a fan of Hamburg-based Peter Kersten’s autumnal electronics for some time. Together with Carsten Jost, his Dial records label has carved out a niche for strong melodic house that stands out amongst the crowd. Reflection and uncertainty seem to be at the centre of their aesthetic. His Sten project has always been far more angular and dancefloor-orientated than Lawrence, which whilst beat-driven, is inflected with his own unique brand of melancholia.

“The Essence” reflects this – skeletal, uptempo tracks that drive forward purposefully, whilst remaining a little abstract and showing restraint. Kersten’s work displays a sense of thoughtful distance and invariably subtle humour, as shown in the warm bouncy flavour of “More Stash” that recalls Rajko Muller at his best. The influence of Detroit and Chicago are present in the well-chosen application of kicks and claps that are never too obvious, although there’s a tribal aspect to some tracks that overshadows the ambigious atmospheres that he tries to create.

Because of the concise, workmanlike nature of the Sten material, it never really blossoms into something greater, and when an artist makes several different types of music, it is difficult to remove the association with other material that they produce. Albums that are essentially a series of dancefloor tracks have a peculiar quality about them, as they usually are solid without being remarkable, and “The Essence” is ultimately a good example. The recent single “Way to the Stars” stands out, a sinewy clap-assisted atmospheric number that grows to a satisfying climax, and elsewhere there’s beauty in the soft touch of opening track “Daylight”, but overall it feels like Kersten is treading water just a little.

Toby Frith

Dial Records Website

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