Vincent Belorgey, better known to a wider audience as Kavinsky, just released his long awaited album, Outrun. Kavinsky, a French born electro-pop producer, functions like many of the other popular French artists: he hasn’t released much material over the course of his career, but the quality of what has been released says a lot about the producer. After touring, remixing, and being compared to Justice, Daft Punk and SebastiAn, you’d think Kavinsky would fit in perfectly with the Ed Banger crew, but he holds his ground with label, Record Makers.
A lot of people know Kavinsky from his single, which became available in late 2012, “Nightcall”. The slow-moving, robotic sounding single was featured in Ryan Gosling’s Drive in 2011 and has since picked up speed and gradually gained a wider audience for the album. I must admit, “Nightcall” stands as one of the high points on the album, a tune that is hard not to sing-a-long to, but Outrun has many other notable tracks.
I find it ironic, or maybe fitting, that Kavinsky’s “Nightcall” was used in Gosling’s Drive because Outrun is the essential soundtrack to a late night car ride. There is no other album that fits so perfectly. Kavinsky’s alter-ego also participates in this car-driven fantasy. Kavinsky, at it’s basic, is a character name. His story is that after crashing his Ferrari Testarossa in 1986, he reappeared as a zombie in 2006 to make his own electronic music (via Kavinsky’s wiki, also explained in the opening track “Prelude”). The character that appears on album artwork and singles looks strikingly like Vincent himself, but he’s said in interview’s that it’s not him.
When listening to Outrun, it’s hard to deny the influence of 80s style electro-pop music. Almost the entire album is formatted around this sound. The opening track on the album is a narrated track that gives us the background information on Kavinsky’s origins. From there, we are presented with “Blizzard”, a track that is centered around a guitar lick melody and palm-muted sounds. The song harkens back to Justice‘s latest studio album Audio, Video, Disco, in an arena-rock fashion. But if you truly want to hear some straight up arena-rock that could be passed off as a legit Justice track, listen to “First Blood”. It reminds me of 80s hair-metal with a singer’s voice that soars high and low over the track and is supplemented by fierce guitar riffs tinged with electronic feedback.
“Protovision,” the second single after “Nightcall,” appeared on an EP with remixes released in early February. “Protovision” gives us more arena-rock guitars and composition while still grasping onto electronic sounds as a foundation. It serves as a solid track on the album; the melodies from the guitar are hard to let go of and the guitar solo is equally as good. Then you have a track like “Rampage”, the perfect sound track for a late night car chase. When I first listened to the album, I could have sworn that “Rampage” was a subdued remix or remake of Justice’s “Stress”. It sounds strikingly alike, but has its own Kavinsky feel.
Outrun features new and old tracks. “Grand Canyon” and “Deadcruiser” appeared on Kavinsky’s 1986 EP, and “Testarossa Autodrive” appeared on his 2006 release, Teddy Boy. All three tracks fit perfectly on the album whether or not they’re old. “Deadcruiser” reminds me of Com Truise: 80’s analog synths take control and give you a video game feeling. One of the more upbeat tracks, “Testarossa Autodrive,” keeps the album lively and is clearly influenced from early techno and perhaps even the legend himself, Mr. Oizo. If you’re looking for the harder tracks on the album, “Testarossa Autodrive” is one of them, but you can also find the same in “Deadcruiser” and more.
The real surprise on the album comes from the track “Suburbia”, an electro-hip-hop tune that features Havoc. The idea of mixing techno/electro-pop and hip-hop sounds like a terrible idea, but leave it to Kavinsky to make it just right. Havoc repeats the phrase “I Come To Life” harkening back the story of Kavinsky’s character after the car crash. Admittedly, it’s not my favorite track on the album, but still holds strong as a high point.
The last track on any album should be reserved for the most epic productions, and I think this stands for any genre of music. Kavinsky does just that on the closing number, “Endless”. Opening with just a few bleeps and bloops, the anonymous narrator comes back to give you closure on the story of Kavinsky:
“They say the flap of a butterflies wing can doom your fate, that the road sometimes takes back what it had given, that true love never dies…and now you know how the legend of the dead cruiser was born.”
After a couple of narrated lines, feedback soaked synths overwhelms the listener into a trance that is near impossible to escape (much like the fate of Kavinsky’s fictitious character in the car crash). The song continues on its slow-moving eletronic-tinged path towards an inevitable end. Then finally, the music slowly diminishes and the ominous narrator enters the track for a final closing statement.
“But what you don’t know is there is a gap between living and dying. Some say they’ve seen the dead cruiser in a flash of lightning or on the shadowy curves of the highway. Some say he was just a kid, who met his fate in a fiery crash. But anyone fool enough to venture out on to that treacherous road should know one thing…there’s no turning back…”
Whether or not you hear it, the French artist Kavinsky is channeling some seriously great music into this album. The long awaited debut is not something you listen to in bits and pieces, it must be listened to in its entirety because the album tells an awesome story. Kavinsky leaves his mark on electronic music with an album that will never die, just like the dead cruiser.
Sounds like: SebastiAn, Daft Punk, Com Truise, Justice
Reviewed By: John Cywinski