French electronic magician VITALIC returns with a solid collection of tunes…
There’s a robust quality about the electronic tunes contained on this latest release by Vitalic which appears to signal a strong start for electronic music in 2017.
Vitalic, aka Pascal Arbez, had been operating since the late 1990s as an underground artist, but achieved a larger profile with the release of his debut album OK Cowboy in 2005.
Vitalic’s crunchy flavour of muscular beats and melodies was unashamedly electronic and effortlessly straddled several genres at once. From the metallic beats and synthetic vocals of ‘My Friend Dario’ to the synthy goodness of ‘Poison Lips’ from his 2009 album Flashmob (which also appeared in cult film Dredd) there’s a consistent talent for good, solid electronic music.
Along the way, Vitalic has also chalked up a reputation for remix magic. In fact one of TEC’s favourite tunes from 2009 was Vitalic’s remix of Heartbreak’s ‘We’re Back’.
It’s probably not that surprising that Arbez should have ended up rubbing shoulders with the likes of The Hacker and Miss Kittin during his formative years. It’s Miss Kittin who also makes an appearance here on the track ‘Hans Is Driving’, a languid slice of electronica with vocoder effects and sounds like Air meets Kraftwerk.
New Vitalic album Voyager draws from a wealth of influences, including nods to the likes of Giorgio Moroder and Cerrone. Certainly, standout track ‘Waiting For The Stars’ is an unabashed nod to Arbez’s favourite ’70s and ’80s songs, which in places is deliberately out of tune. Featuring vocals from David Shaw, there’s a Moroder-esque beat driving this squelchy and engaging electropop wonder.
There’s also a wealth of hooks and melodies all over ‘Use It Or Lose It’ which also features a vocal turn by Mark Kerr (Maestro). ‘Eternity’ on the other hand is a much more stately affair with its sombre beats and rhythms sounding like they’ve been immersed in aspic.
Vitalic are probably one of the acts that are likely to again ignite the debate over whether or not electronic dance music can also sit alongside synthpop proper. Some parties dismiss many contemporary electronic music acts on this basis, but in their eagerness to turn away, perhaps fail to grasp that electronic music is a broad spectrum of shades and colours.
Certainly the likes of Röyksopp (who dabble in similar waters to Vitalic) are helping to break down such barriers. It’s something that outfits like Kleerup and Japan’s Capsule have also been doing for a while. As always, it’s good tunes that will win an audience over.
To be fair, we’re also up to our ears in dance music that’s become bland and generic and on that basis, it’s always a pleasure when acts such as Vitalic rock up with an album that sets the standard.
But Voyager also features an appreciation for classic synthpop too. Written as a tribute to ‘Warm Leatherette’ by The Normal, ‘Sweet Cigarette’ features similarly deadpan lyrics against machine-like rhythms.
Elsewhere, ‘Nozomi’ (which in Japanese means ‘wish’) takes its inspiration from the Japanese shinkansen trains. As a result, there’s a constant sense of movement at play driven by the relentless rhythms and the oddly off-kilter synths here.
There’s more bleeping goodness evident on the cosmic disco of ‘Lightspeed’ while album closer ‘Don’t Leave Me Now’ (actually a cover of a Supertramp song) is a simple yet evocative tune perfect to close proceedings.
Those that are fans of contemporary electropop will not be disappointed by the contents of Voyager. It’s clear that the album is already a strong contender for Album of the Year lists, but it’s also a demonstration that decent electronic music can cross many boundaries.
Publications that have featured his contributions include Electronic Sound, Metro, Japan Update Weekly, J-Pop Go, Wavegirl and OMD Messages.