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Sebastian Total Review

Album. Released 2011.  

BBC Review

A superb debut from the French producer, setting the bar high for 2011’s dance albums.

Mike Diver 2011

With a second studio album from Justice looming on the horizon and Daft Punk’s phenomenal soundtrack for Tron: Legacy topping dance charts on both sides of the Atlantic late last year (amazingly, the score was overlooked at the Oscars), it seems appetites for beats français remain hearty – even 14 years after the dizzying head-rush of Homework.

Although active since 2005, Boulogne-born electro-head Sebastian Akchoté hasn’t followed his similarly styled countrymen into long-player territories – until now. Total, his debut LP (with cover art featuring the artist kissing himself), has been a long while coming, Sebastian’s reputation as a remixer perhaps preceding his standing as a solo artist. No longer: Total is a breathlessly brilliant set that whips the listener this way and that, skipping between styles with confidence. There’s house and techno, silken funk and futuristic soul, and even skull-shuddering drum‘n’bass recalling the heavy-duty output of Dutch trio Noisia.

Love in Motion, one of only two tracks to feature a guest vocalist (in this case, Mayer Hawthorne), is an immediately grabbing early highlight, coming on like the Technologic pair trespassing on the Purple One’s Paisley Park complex. It’s superb, Hawthorne’s vocals processed to the extent that it could be anyone singing – but their presence ensures that the track feels organic in comparison to much of the sci-fi-disco fare that follows. Fried is the cut that closely resembles Noisia, specifically their brutal single Machine Gun. Doggg combines digital crackle with electric guitar crunch (imagine The Prodigy working with Mr Oizo), and Motor triggers flashbacks to 16-bit classic Road Rash – chains to batter your competitors, optional.

M.I.A.’s presence adds little to proceedings, but that her contribution to C.T.F.O. sounds more vital than the vast majority of her last album, the muddled Maya, is telling. It’s the most obvious entry point to this LP for the newcomer, but it’s nowhere close to its best moment; and that it surpasses much of Maya’s content goes to show what an excellent producer Sebastian is. Funk again comes to the fore on Embody and the cut-and-paste workout of Arabest – both are effortlessly engaging and sure to get anyone shimmying.

There are moments where Total does come close to a Daft Punk pastiche. But these are few and far between, and there’s plenty enough of Sebastian’s own character on show to make this one of the most enjoyable dance albums of 2011 so far. Justice, your move…

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