Album Review: Peter Van Hoesen – Entropic City

[Time 2 Express; 2010]

I have a feeling that “Van Hoesen” is going to be as singular and as household a name as Villalobos, Atkins, or Dettmann, there’s no need for the Peter part. Even better is nickname “The Hose” which seems to have stuck quite well. I say this because the Belgian dub techno don has been releasing a stream of incredible singles under his own name since 2008, debuting on German Lan Muzic label before starting his own imprint Time 2 Express, which after a stunning year-and-a-half and ten releases already feels like a dependable institution for dubbed-out techno excursions. Hoesen’s work tends to lean toward the darker side, but instead of being claustrophobic they’re wide open, their dark leads unfolding into gorgeous melodies. The best tracks he’s released so far, namely “Attribute One,” “New Territory” and “Casual Care” are perfectly balanced, built to work equally well on a stuffy dancefloor as on a particularly powerful pair of headphones, catchy progressions built deep into these tracks’ grooves.

After a string of amazing twelves and a streak of hot releases from other artists on his Time 2 Express label, Van Hoesen returns with a vengeance with his debut LP, Entropic City. Wisely including no previously released tracks, this is an album’s album, not a convenient collection of tracks with a few new ones thrown in to justify the release. As such, it marks a rather drastic change in Van Hoesen’s sound; while Entropic City is an impressively diverse LP, the tracks are united by a home-listening feel. That’s not to say they’re boring — far from it — but it seems like without the pressure of creating dancefloor bangers he’s able to stretch out even further and explore his most experimental and tangential urges, incredibly detailed tracks that go where they want to go instead of sticking to some prescribed template. Opening track “Into Entropy” is symptomatic of this, taking forever to get going and staying deeply minimal, with neon-bright splashes of sound the only thing breaking through the monochromatic smokescreen.

The rest of the album consists of more user-friendly fare, notably the ambient-leaning “Testing a Simulacrum,” the wide-open broad sweeps of “Republic” and the urgent funkiness of the amazing “Strip It, Boost It.” There are a few typically Hose tracks like the storming “Dystopian Romance,” which sounds like Hoesen merging his own sound with old UK techno and would have fit right in on one of his 2009 twelve-inchers, and there’s also “Terminal” which starts out as a monolithic stomper before disintegrating and scattering into a hundred smaller eye-catching pieces, reflecting glints of of humanity into the track’s churning mechanical heart. All of these tracks have some element of friendliness to them:Van Hoesen is trying to be gentle and welcoming with his first album and it works, a warm and fuzzy and downright massive listen. There’s nothing on here like my favourite Hose track, his moody remix of Donato Dozzy and Cio D’Or collaboration “Menta,” but he comes close with the pounding closer “Defense Against The Self,” an oxygen-depleted environment shutting the album down as if breathless after the preceding nine tracks of brilliance. Entropic City is simply a joy to listen to; I don’t know how he managed to do it, but Peter Van Hoesen has nailed the unreliable techno debut album with ease and remarkable finesse.