Thursday, March 29, 2012

John Talabot: fIN (2012)

(Permanent Vacation)


This Barcelona DJ has let slip one of the most heavily hyped looping electro-discs of the last year or two; it's certainly an immersive example of the kind of nocturnal music that AraabMUZIK and Nicolas Jaar, among others, have catapulted into popularity. Of course there's a vast stylistic gulf between those two musicians, and so it goes that Talabot clearly carves out his own curious niche, in this case a touch of Africa and a willingness to let the nonmusical fall in lockstep with his creations, like the frog croaking on the ebbing flowing opener "Depak Ine," a splendid introduction to the pleasures offered by this striking record.

Two problems make it hard to embrace Talabot's album as fully as some have. First, it's vastly front-loaded; the first half's "El Oeste," with its empty repetitions washing over the listener, suggests the manner and speed with which the wheels will come off on the second. "Missing You" and "Last Land" are dilutions of a weak '80s sound evocative of worldbeat, "So Will Be Now" is a Moby-like loop that goes on too long, while "Estiu" is bro-chillout if there is such a thing. The other problem is that the entire LP is nearly shadowed by the overwhelming "Destiny," a genuinely seductive night anthem that some would say makes you feel infinite and certainly does a fine job of giving off the traditional dance music urge to bust out. It recalls the best of Four Tet and especially Pantha Du Prince's "Stick to My Side," thanks to the stunning vocal by Pional. It's utter romance.

That song's sense of communal joy gives some clue as to the reasons for the outlandish praise that's greeted fIN; and when the record isn't too busy to let you surrender, it kind of towers. "Oro Y Sangre," despite its baffling repeated use of female screams as punctuation, is an especially persuasive house construction with an overpowering bottom end and a great Modey EDM keyboard hook. "Journey" showcases the strong influence of both 12" maxi-singles from the 1980s and the late-2000s work of Animal Collective in the soaring vocal by Ekhi, fully overcoming the first impression that it's the soundtrack to a kids' scientific education video.

At its weakest extremes, fIN still has some degree of charm, especially for big fans of kitsch. "When the Past Was Present" is an impossibly cheesy "urban" piece that sounds like a Haddaway or Londonbeat b-side, but if you're nostalgic or into bigtime Hi-NRG, that might appeal to you. Besides, the back half of the LP works well enough for the point in the party when everyone's a bit too outside themselves to care much about the music anymore. One imagines a lot of drunken dancing taking place to "H.O.R.S.E." over the next few months, and good on Talabot for fostering that.

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