Review: Funkineven – Fallen
London based producer Steven Julien’s debut LP ‘Fallen’ – released through his own record label Apron – navigates hitherto unknown territory. First surfacing in 2009 as Funkineven with a string of steady 12” club releases on Eglo Records and going on to collaborate with the likes of Kyle Hall, Fatima and Shanti Celeste, his first full-length release showcases his wide-ranging versatility and creative talent as an electronic artist.
The conceptual narrative of the album is divided into two contrasting musical chapters: we follow the story of a fallen angel, a ‘rebellious soul expelled from the pearly gates and forced to live in hell among mere mortals for eternity’. The first half of the record introduces us to the concept of ‘utopia’, whilst the latter deals with ‘darker, hellish bogs’.
How then, does one accurately navigate the terrestrial realm, once fallen from the heady climes of utopia? According to Julien, it is with a self-possessed grace and a boldness of spirit that keeps rising upwards, defiant in the face of disorder. He constructs a vibrant and undeniably assertive sound in his debut, laid-back and sure of itself in a way that’s contagiously irrepressible.
The first six songs build up a light and effervescent atmosphere, soulful and starry-eyed throughout, joyous and unbounded in a way that elicits admiration. The record journeys through the inextricably intertwined natures of darkness and light, seamlessly streaming through with bubbling, airy grooves; then later, descending into darker, more distorted and disorienting depths, but always tied together with a balanced and assured touch. Julien plays the majority of instruments throughout the record – using session musicians sparingly for cohesion – veering from jazz fusion to funk, acid to techno in its sinuous course.
The first half of the record glows with distinct lightness of being: ‘Chantel' instantly captivates with its jazzy, blissful buildup of sounds, lustrous electronic beats shimmering with colour before evaporating; ‘Carousel’ uncoils seductively in a glittering, surging propulsion of snare drums and synth-driven groove. The memorable ‘XL’ is breezily driven onwards by a pulsating bassline, infused with a crackly house beat and swirling with a sunny, luxurious piano sample.
‘Oshun' begins the distressing descent into reality from utopia, unfurling slowly, its unsettling development anticipates a darker and more menacing sound. This arrives in the more Detroit techno influenced latter half with ‘Fallen’: teeming with tension, a dense, reverberating wall of techno attempts to rise up but keeps falling back into oblivion. Afterwards, we find solace in dystopia: ‘Jedi’s dark and glitchy electronic landscape is melodic, captivating and warm. A clear record highlight is ‘Kingdom’, its thumping kick drum buildup swirls into a dazzlingly kinetic haze of melodious groove, filled with percussive hi-hats and shimmering, undulating synths. ‘Discipline’s acidic terrain is murky and complex, slinking through the shadows with its playful, pulsating rhythm.
Darkness doesn’t mean desolation or despair for Julien’s fallen angel: the latter half of the album channels just as much of a dynamic and celebratory energy as the former, laden with lively, propulsive rhythms and infectious, vibrantly glowing melodies. For his protagonist, there’s an affirmative yes to life in the ambiguous, shadowy spectrums of corporeal reality, where redemption is found through sensation, and the idea of paradise is grounded – and fleetingly found – in mortality. From one shattered idea of utopia then there emerges another dream: this time it lies in something more fragmented, but also something more concrete. In his shining debut, Julien has created a vivid and hypnotising tapestry of sounds rich and resonant in its expansive scope, with a disruptive and luminous spirit that surges ever ecstatically forwards, revelling in chaos and dancing into the darkness.
Buy the release HERE.