Thanks to the promotional efforts of Japan’s Mule Musiq, Tokyo is fast becoming a regular port of call for the Kompakt crew. This year’s third and most recent Kompakt party (yet again hosted at the wonderfully welcoming and relaxing Club Unit) saw the return of Kompakt’s newest big gun DJ Koze, and the first Japanese appearance of Hamburg based artist Lawrence.
Peter M. Kersten has been recording under the name Lawrence for five years at a fairly prolific rate; with three full length records, seven 12”s (not counting Lawrence remix 12”s), and a slew of remixes to his credit, he shows no sign of slowing down. If anything, Lawrence has recently been threatening to break into the circle of well-known minimal artists, with his latest album being licensed to NovaMute Records and two of his productions appearing on Superpitcher’s recent “Today” mix CD.
Lawrence’s one-hour live set served as the perfect introduction to his work for the crowd at Unit. After setting the scene with a gorgeous orchestral sample that was very cinematic in feel (complete with dialogue that I sadly couldn’t place), Lawrence launched into his set. Minor-keyed minimal melodies slowly and gracefully unpacked themselves and grew, all the while underscored by wonky rotating rhythms that threatened to spin out of control, but never did. The set was gently melancholic, punctuated by occasional moments of unease that were swiftly swept away by beautiful chiming melodies and shuffling beats.
The majority of the crowd at Unit were clearly charmed by Lawrence’s melodies and rhythms, although there were a few dissenters, some of whom were sadly quite vocal in their displeasure. Admittedly, Lawrence’s music doesn’t rock like crystal meth and jackhammers, and may be too mellow for those who want a night of rocking techno. Yet it is artists like Lawrence who are broadening the palette of electronic music, challenging the popular conception that techno is only for those who want music to take drugs to. Such music and artists are to be celebrated; it was heartening to see most people at Unit being receptive and responsive to Lawrence and his heartfelt melodies.
DJ Koze took to the decks after what appeared to be some kind of technical problem. (Creating a slightly awkward moment for Lawrence; it was obvious his set had finished, but Koze was still running on and off stage and fiddling with the decks. Lawrence played a few more tracks, which were received well by the crowd, but in terms of the “narrative” of his live set it was obvious that these tracks were tacked on.) Perhaps in a nod to Lawrence, Koze started off his set with some quiet, soft, and moody tracks, including some Matthew Herbert. It wasn’t long, however, before the set started stomping, much to the delight of the crowd. Koze had come around, bringing party music with him.
As the beats began slamming nicely, Koze started introducing brief bursts of static which built up the tension wonderfully. These soon became fantastic build ups as Koze would tweak the living hell out of hiss and static, louder and louder, faster and faster, until he would let go and the beats would come slamming back down. Meanwhile, Koze would rock back and forth behind the decks and mixer like a rock star, opening his mouth in a silent scream.
It was obvious that Koze was unafraid to take himself less than seriously, and was primarily concerned with both him and the crowd having fun. Koze danced around behind the decks, making faces and smiling at the crowd, clearly enjoying both mixing a good set and parodying “rock star” DJs. After a while Koze’s background in hip-hop came out, as he occasionally scratched records or spun them back by hand to replay a particular moment. His sense of fun was infectious, with the crowd smiling, whooping, and of course dancing.
The set continued to rock with solid slamming beats and interesting static textures, and Koze dropped quite a few tracks from his recent debut full-length “Kosi Comes Around”, proving his album is equally built for both home listening and dancefloors. Curiously, the set never actually hit the “knock your head clean off because this rocks so hard” peak that it continually promised. Even the inclusion of Tiga’s remix of Tomas Andersson’s “Washing Up” somehow didn’t utterly tear up the dancefloor. It was almost as if Koze was always deferring the moment of climax, pulling back at the last possible second. Perhaps Koze intended this as a way of creating and sustaining tension and drama in his set, but after rushing towards the promised peak so many times only to pull away yet again, the crowd needed a true moment of ecstatic release.
As Koze approached the end of his 4-hour set he gently eased the crowd down with the soul classic "Me and Mrs. Jones" and then what sounded suspiciously like a Leonard Cohen (or perhaps Scott Walker?) track.
Realizing the party was finally over, the crowd slowly and reluctantly left Unit (although not after dawdling on the dancefloor for some time, hoping for just one more track). Their reluctance was easy to understand. After an evening of music aimed squarely at their hearts and at their feet, they wanted the night to last forever. And when nights are this good, why not?