REVIEW: SEBASTIAN – TOTAL (2011)
Oh! My music buds were tingling a few months back when I first heard SebastiAn’s new tune “Embody”. It was rich in funk, full of texture, and made the body want to jack to its slow house groove and engaging vocal track. The video that accompanied it, directed by “Me So” also turned a few heads, making its way onto music and art blogs alike, finding compliments for its inventive subtext and clever twist. So when the opportunity arose to sink my teeth into his new album I had my hopes up for a treat of funky electronic grooving….
I was a little surprised with what I heard.
After a string of singles, E.P. releases, guest tracks, hugely popular remixes for artists like Daft Punk, Cut Copy and Bloc Party, and not to mention the co-composition of a soundtrack for Mr. Oizo’s feature film “Steak”, Total is SebastiAn’s much anticipated debut album, released on Ed Banger Records breaking into the mix this summer with a very loud and somewhat confusing bang…
The Boulogne based producer did not hold back on his first full length release, with 22 tracks clocking in at 51 minutes he follows the recent trend to be “short but sweet” , with many of his tracks barely reaching a minute in length and the longest of which is just over 4 minutes. This keeps you on your toes, as the album changes direction abruptly every few minutes exploring new sounds and grooves.
Based on what I had heard from “Embody” I had expected a smooth, funky, house experiment, and the initial four songs seemed to follow that trend. “Love in Motion” (featuring Mayer Hawthorn) opens into a bass heavy slow house groove and moves gingerly on to “Embody”… however, from here SebastiAn drops into overdrive and the slow groove is replaced by heavy distorted synth, more in line with the sound of fellow French act Justice.
The cut into this sound is shockingly sudden with “Ross Ross Ross” attacking the senses through all manner of chopped up beats and mangled synths. It is however hugely engaging and given the chance it would most definitely destroy a dance floor on any given weekend.
The production is sublime, noticeably crafted to the exact wishes of its creator. It becomes increasingly apparent that SebastiAn is demonstrating a comprehensive portfolio of abilities on this album as the album switches between genres and sounds. Loading up beats in heavy electro-house tunes like “Fried” to the point that there seems to be no more room for anything else to fit, and then following that up with a Daft Punk-esque house tune, full of melody and chopped up samples; you simply have no idea what to expect round the next corner.
The range of sounds is astounding. “Water Games” is full of 1970s disco fever, the heavy-metal guitar chords of “Jack Wire” or “Doggg” would sound more at home on a Metallica album, while “Tetra” tentatively introduces harpsichord synth patterns backed up by more drum and over-driven synth stabs creating an all together enjoyable if not confusing experience.
As I said already he does not hold back, and the album’s schizophrenic quality can result in a difficult listening experience with some tracks hitting the mark and others simply not fitting in. “Doggg” is a world away from the smooth sounds of “Embody” for example, while a track like “Motor” with its high pitched, super-overdrive synth lines can be almost impossible to listen to on a set of headphones (however I can imagine it would go down a treat in a club through a very…VERY large sound system).
There is absolutely no coherency in this album, it is a selection of individual tracks divided up by a collection of short sound-bites which are equally incoherent, however this seems to be what makes the album work. Save for the first four tracks there is no intention to create a journey from A to B. It is a calling card, a sort of collection of “looks”; SebastiAn the heavy metal rocker, SebastiAn the smooth funk artist, SebastiAn the electro-house producer. Much like the video to “Embody” this album touches on the fact that today’s music listener has so many varied interests, and whether a greasy mechanic or 16-year-old girl a good song is a good song, it doesn’t matter who you are or what label you fall under; just enjoy it.
As is suggested in its title, Total is the whole package. So if you are in the mood for an “experience” and a selection of tracks to suit pretty much any situation (bar a funeral) then this album is worth the investment. Don’t expect to love every track, but there is nearly definitely something for everyone in there somewhere.
Total is released June 7, 2011 (United States) on Because/Ed Banger Records.