The Absence of Blight

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One year after his album for Ladomat, Lawrence reappeared with another for his own Dial label, The Absence of Blight. A contribution to Dial's various-artist Anti-Faschistische Aktion 12", along with a three-track 12", set the table for an advancement in Lawrence's approach that is more geared to clubs and less suited for a darkened bedroom. It's not that he's made a 180 degree shift from glum introvert to hedonistic extrovert; he's still working with his own kind of downcast properties that create a state of psychological unease. (If some producers' tracks are designed for contemplating space travel or undersea dwelling, Lawrence's are more suited for cooking up conspiracy theories in ruinous warehouses.) Drawn-out chords, pungent keyboard stabs, wraithlike swabs of synthetic strings, and the swinging pendulum-like clickings remain in full, frightful effect. However, there are no tracks on this album with scrambled-up, abstract-beyond-danceable beats. Each one features its own richly accessible rhythmic template. The greatest development takes place in the sad "Somebody Hold Me," in which one of Lawrence's best productions is paired perfectly with an actual string arrangement. Truth be told, the artwork tells you almost as much about the what separates the two albums from each other: the cover of the first shows a slate gray shot of dense fog and no track titles on the back, whereas the sleeve of this one -- also in black and white -- depicts a thatch of shrubbery on an overcast day, with scrawled track titles -- including one with a Smiths reference -- provided on the other side. It's as if the producer is more open to letting you into his world now, dropping more-significant clues instead of merely suggesting certain interpretations. Along with Sweden's Anders Ilar and Finland's Sami Koivikko, Lawrence heads the crop of producers who create an almost goth-like* brand of microhouse that's chilling and insidious. (*Think Seventeen Seconds-era Cure, not any album-era Projekt.)

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