Review: Lawrence – Yoyogi Park


The axis drawn between Tokyo and Lawrence’s hometown of Hamburg is suitably adept for his continued liaison with the Japanese capital’s Mule Musiq label. Both cities are set in countries dedicated to efficiency, where trains run rigidly on time and music is made with relentless economy of space, where every beat is precisely programed for maximum functionality. This, combined with a signature sound full of fragility and delicateness, means that the German producer sits comfortably within the Japanese tradition of emotive house music.

Yoyogi Park is Lawrence’s seventh LP and third in a trilogy of full-length efforts for Mule. With his previous outings on the label taking a more experimental, left-field bent, Yoyogi Park is a floor-focused collection of Lawrence tracks that will have his DJ converts salivating. The album is full of slowly building earworms and engrossing tapestries of sound that will both reward time spent exploring this LP and work the more discerning club floors.

Situated in the centre of Tokyo's sprawling metropolis, Yoyogi Park is home to the Emperor’s palace. It is a window into Japanese culture, a place where you’ll find former high flying bankers with all their worldly possessions bundled up with military order onto a trolley taking in the last of the day’s sun before bedding down for a night spent rough under the stars. During the day you’ll find strictly regimented teams of young men engaged in soldier games armed with super soakers. During the 'Hanami' or Cherry Blossom time in March/April the whole of the city comes to take in the atmosphere, sink beers and enjoy the brevity of the annual flowering that is a key part of Japanese culture.

The Lawrence sound palette doesn’t differ wildly throughout his discography, so unsurprisingly here we find light brushes of hi-hats, dreamy pads and sensual keys. Someone as distinctly devoted to a mellow approach as Lawrence can find it difficult to converge themselves on the centre of the dance floor, usually preferring to skirt somewhere around the edges.

Clear highlights include 'Tensui', a tight, unfurling jam with epic pads and shimmering keys that would soundtrack the scarlet streaks and vapour trails above the city silhouette seen from Yoyogi at sundown. The punchy 'Clouds and Arrows' sounds like a rushing version of Manuel Gottsching’s 'E2-E4', primed with twitchy nervous enrgy. It's one of the most floor ready tracks in Lawrence’s sizeable output, and probably the track that will be shaking the most shoulders this summer. 'Blue Mountain' has the haunting, majestic pulse of 'Bass Queen' era Villalobos, while 'Simmer' is a more ambient piece reminiscent of his preceding Mule works and with a certain nod to his hometown label Dial.

Like green urban space mimicking the countryside, electronic music is a skeletal mime of its loftier, more traditional forms. Yoyogi Park is always bustling, full of twists and turns, with typical hints to a higher grandeur that characterises the melancholia that seeps out Lawrence’s machines. On Yoyogi Park he adds some thump here and a bit of ooosh there to bring the refined lustiness of his music to bear on the dance floor. This mantra starves him of the space to retreat, so he creates a collection of tracks that immediately seem more urgent and hungry than past wandering efforts. Although taking a more floor focused route, the result is still quite a niche collection of club tracks, still very, well, Lawrence. This LP is unlikely to move mountains, but will reinforce the intimacy in the bond he has with his hardcore fans.