Peter M. Kersten is a former gardener with a known fondness for watching plants grow and perish. Indeed, it’s easy to imagine this DJ/producer’s atmospheric house, deep ambient, and minimal techno soundtracking time-lapse footage of wilting flowers and falling leaves.
Fitting, then, that the cover of Kersten’s second album under the Lawrence moniker (2003’s The Absence of Blight) features resolutely grey photographs of dead plants. The snaps were taken in his hometown of Hamburg, Germany where, he says, you will always find beauty beneath the ugliness.
The follow-up, 2005’s The Night Will Last Forever (Novamute), extended the horticultural theme inside (via track titles such as “The Lawn” and “Crippled Trees”) while its Joy Division-inspired layout and typography, and its sleeve image of a washed-out crowd shot–sapped of definition and bleached of intensity–helped solidify the bleak, monochromatic aesthetic quickly becoming Lawrence’s trademark.
Kersten, who created the cover art for the album and its three singles, says the results were a happy accident. “I collected old, destroyed negatives of photos at my parents' place and tried to reproduce them,” he recalls. “The results were amazing… The main destructive effects were actually a byproduct of scanning them the wrong way, a mistake that made them look unreal and aged. Everybody seems to have memories that fit the pictures but nobody knows what exactly is on them. Even my parents couldn’t give me an answer.”
The cover art for Lawrence’s recently released retrospective Low Lights From the Past and Future (Dial) continues the theme, with artist Anna Möller “destroying” new pictures to make them look akin to those of the previous album. The introduction of color, albeit restrained, is intended to show the link between past and future, says Kersten.
“I love the texture of all those pictures,” he concludes. “Your mind is driven by all the details and not by the colors. You learn to watch the details again.”