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Various – Return To The Center review

Two of the main issues techno artists face are a sense of disconnection and an inability to express themselves outside the confines of a club setting. On its first compilation, Peter Van Hoesen’s Time 2 Express label manages to overcome both of these obstacles. Indeed, while social media has brought people closer together and, on a superficial level, made artists with common interests closer, the reality is that new technology has exacerbated techno’s disconnect. After all, if everyone is talking to everyone else online all the time, who is left to make or share music on a local or personal level? Return To The Center overcomes this problem by collecting music from producers the amiable Belgian has come into contact with during his gigs around the world, through his own friendships and associations with producers on other like-minded labels.

The result is that the album offers a shared experience and a community feeling, in as much as these are possible nowadays. Van Hoesen has also programmed Return To The Center immaculately, and this overcomes the second, existential crisis for techno artists, namely being able to translate their work to an album format. Peter’s Object project bookends the release, providing the warm ambient alternative to the glitchy complexities of  Blue Box’s “Temporary” and the menacing bass of Sendai’s “North East”, and a prelude to the deep, dubby techno of Tr nch & IORI’s “Barreleye”. The same sense of depth is audible in Van Hoesen’s collaborations with Donato Dozzy –  although “Elektra” is more pounding than “Dock” – and the chugging, bleep-heavy Lucy reshape of Van Hoesen’s “Defense Against The Self”. SP-X’s “Extract” is a brilliantly malevolent concoction of raw filters, relentlessly driving hats and evil industrial noises, and along with the growling dub of Van Hoesen’s “Hope In Honnesterror” provides the end to the first Time 2 Express chapter and in the process, breaks two of the biggest barriers facing techno.

Richard Brophy