Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury, please stand and prepare to receive evidence both for and against the artist known as Vitalic's new LP 'Rave Age'.
He'll either be carried out on the shoulders of the People, or placed in the stocks to be pelted with rotten tangerines with Jamie Cullen's face carved into them.
The ultimate decision rests with you….
THE CASE FOR RAVE AGE
French electro maestro Vitalic raises the bar for his third LP 'Rave Age', drawing on diverse influence to create a sonic palette with so much texture you can almost feel it.
Pascal Arbez – Nicolas has been producing music since the tender age of 15. After cutting his teeth under the moniker Dima on International Deejay Gigolo Records he signed up with musical renegades Different Recordings to unleash Vitalic on the world in 2005, with his first LP 'OK Cowboy'. Rapidly gaining a reputation for acclaimed, high-octane productions like dancefloor anthems “La Rock 01” and “The 30000 Feet Club”, he fuses together influences from Techno, Electro, Italo and Disco to create a sound that is both raw, yet refined, industrial yet playful, furnishing brutal baselines with layer upon layer of lively blistering synths.
For his third LP, Rave Age, Vitalic has done away with the vocoder, working with a myriad of talent to add diverse, and sometimes surprising influences to his distinctive sound. Mickael Karkousse of Belgium electro rockers Goose adds his raw indie vocals to a bed of dirty electric riffs on “Rave Kids Go”, opening the album with a track that brims with the excitement of a fresh night. “Stamina”, the first single from the album, combines a ruthless baseline, jarring synths and distorted vocals with humorous hooks for a brutal dancefloor belter. Shit Disco's Joe Reeves heavy disco pop influence might come as a surprise to hardened techno fans in “Fade Away”, but makes for an infectiously happy track, and “Under Your Sun” drips in eighties synth pop with dreamy vocals from Sexy Sushi's Rebeka Warrior taking centre stage.
Heavy use of hoovers and industrial sounds in “No Sleep” show Vitalic still has a taste for big room anthems, while the slow subtle building soundscape in “Nexus” would be more fitting for the soundtrack of an epic film rather than a nightclub. Picking up the pace with light hearted “The March Of Skabah”, “Lucky Star” ebbs and flows with distant voices, before Sexy Sushi return for their second collaboration, “La Mort Sur Le Dancefloor”, screaming punk vocals while Vitalic unleashes a storm of blistering electric synths that would whip any dancefloor into a frenzy. “Next I'm Ready” builds with a steady groove before dropping a big room breakdown that even old Mouse Head would be proud of, easing us out of a colourful sonic journey with eerie percussive textures of “The Legend Of Kaspar Hauser”.
Rave Age is body of work that takes many twists and turns, exploring new directions and absorbing genres while maintaining Vitalic's trademark sound and energy. Music made without pretension, delivered with humour and immaculate production for the single intention of keeping you dancing with a smile on your face.
THE CASE AGAINST RAVE AGE
Vitalic, otherwise known as French producer Pascal Arbez has unleashed more than his fair share of dance floor killers right from the beginning in 2001 with the classic ‘Poney. His second album, 2009’s ‘Flashmob’ had him moving from the electro/house sound of previous work and incorporated more synths, less frenetic beats and elements of italo into the mix, it was a logical and on the whole, successful step forward.
For his third, Arbez goes straight for the jugular; tracks like ‘Stamina’ need heaps of the stuff, it's 150 bpm hard electro, pounding beats and abrasive bass-stabs but at under 4 mins long it feels half the length it should be, the shortness makes it feel more like an off cut, almost unfinished.
There are also other issues here, the cohesiveness of previous albums has gone astray as he desperately grabs at other genres. This leads to ‘Rave Age’s lack of direction, where Boys Noize’s latest ‘Out of the black’ has him mastering each tweak of style, Arbez’s approach is heavy handed. ‘Vigipirate’ and ‘The March of Skabah’ both use minimal dancehall beats with loads of scuzz but it’s just noise, the latter containing a nagging high pitched melody so annoying that even Skrillex would say it’s a bit much.
Elsewhere he tries a bit of shouty electro pop ala Crystal Castles which is an improvement and the kind of housey pop EDM favoured by Rihanna/Minaj makes an appearance on ‘Under the Sun’. With its trance riffs and uplifting break, it’s pretty cheesy but stops at the point it becomes pop tarts pretending they understand what the record label is making them sing over.
The same kind of trance riffs and rave stabs are used on ‘No More Sleep’ but whereas in the past it may have been a more welcome appearance, this kind of tune has been done to death now and here it’s shrill and unpleasant to listen to. One swerve in musical direction that does work however is on ‘Fade Away’, the dreamy synths and yelpy vocals could pass itself off nicely as a new cut by Empire of the Sun.
Vitalic has nothing left to prove, he’s done that, maybe concentrating on being himself next time will achieve more consistent results.