Sendai: A Smaller Divide
Archives Intérieures

The key to Sendai's A Smaller Divide lies less in the fact that the group's a collaborative project involving Yves De Mey and Peter Van Hoesen and more that the album appears on Archives Intérieures. Why? Because Archives Intérieures, which the two founded in 2013, acts as an outlet for the duo's experimental side. So anyone expecting A Smaller Divide, their second album on the label, to serve up raw, Tresor-styled techno (like that heard on Van Hoesen's recent Life Performance) will have said expectations challenged, to say the least.

Listeners familiar with Yves De Mey's output will already be aware of his experimental leanings. Though in the late-‘90s his releases were oriented around breakbeats and drum'n'bass, his subsequent work in theater and dance contexts found him pursuing experimental sound design (such as in the 2009 album Lichtung for Richard Chartier's Line label). And though the Berlin-based Van Hoesen has been a part of the Brussels electronic music scene since 1993, he's as comfortable producing straight-up club techno as abstract electronic material. To create A Smaller Divide, the two collaborated for six months, with ideas sent back and forth between Antwerp and Berlin and sometimes in face-to-face sessions involving impromptu jam sessions.

If anything, the blistering opener “Capstan” suggests that A Smaller Divide would be a perfect fit for Stroboscopic Artefacts as much as Archives Intérieures, given the album's uncompromisingly experimental material. Like the music that appears on Lucy's label, Sendai's isn't shy about positioning itself at the outermost reaches of the electronic music galaxy, with De Mey's modular synthesizer system a key element in the project's sound design. Techno is present within the group's music, however, albeit in a form thoroughly skewed by forward-thinking sensibilities. A pulsating techno rhythm forms part of the dense fabric of “Fringe Morals,” though it admittedly must struggle to be heard amidst a battery of writhing synth convulsions, while the hammering title track and wiry funk of “Triptiek” derive their powerful thrust from textbook Stroboscopic Artefacts grooves. While the collection is a generally aggressive one from start to finish, De Mey and Van Hoesen do lower the intensity, relatively speaking, for the ambient-industrial exploration “Norms of True Behavior,” where combustion is present more as threat, not reality.

As A Smaller Divide unfolds, the temptation to draw a parallel between Sendai and Zeitgeber, the collaborative project of Jochem Paap (aka Speedy J) and Luca Mortellaro (aka Lucy), becomes all the harder to resist, especially when both groups combine experimental and techno forms in such provocative manner. Tracks such as “Sequential Convex” and “Self-adjoint” argue, however, that Sendai's approach to sound design is even more radical , which makes for an even bolder album result than Zeitgeber 's recent self-titled release.

February 2014