Album Review | Electronic newcomer Kavinsky displays promise on debut album
French house music producer embraces ‘80s nostalgia
Published: Tuesday, March 5, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, March 5, 2013 06:03
Steeped in the nostalgic synth of the 1980s and peppered with more modern departures, “Outrun” — the debut album of Kavinsky, French house music producer Vincent Belogray — seems strangely both familiar and new at the same time. Even the name of the album, “Outrun,” was named after a Sega Golden Joystick Award−winning racing and arcade game that was released in 1986. Kavinsky is best known for his collaboration with Lovefoxxx on a song called “Nightfall” that was featured in the film “Drive” (2011). The themes that permeated the film are the same themes that are prevalent throughout Kavinsky’s debut: fast cars, music, sensual electro−synth and sentimental throwbacks to the golden days of the ‘80s. Although many artists fall victim to the expectations that a popular single can elicit when it comes to a full length−album, Kavinsky manages to dodge that bullet.
Those who enjoyed Kavinsky’s track “Nightfall” will find similar reasons to love “Outrun.” The concept behind “Outrun,” however — one in which a zombie turns into a car that makes electronic music — is decidedly obscure, and this obscurity finds its way into some of the tracks on Kavinsky’s first showing. Despite this haziness, though, Kavinsky manages to bring something new to the table of electronic music. We have entered a period in which music, art, film and fashion are becoming defined by vintage trends and nostalgic regressions. As with many trends, these iterations of what it means to be cool or relevant often feel inauthentic and forced. However, not only does Kavinsky with “Outrun” showcase genuine respect and reverence for the 1980’s, he creates a sound that is certainly derivative but entirely interesting and fresh.
The record, comprised of fourteen tracks, imparts a strange feeling onto the listener; the tracks, which are new to you, feel familiar and important, as if they were songs that you once loved and then slowly forgot. “Outrun” allows the listener to access a time−period that seems both recent and distant, and experience the textures of that time effortlessly.
Where “Outrun” seems to fall short is in completely formulating and solidifying the themes within it. Although there are some clear musical influences like Daft Punk and Justice, “Outrun” generally sounds muddled and unsure of its place. The music is not exactly dance music or synth−rock. Instead, the tracks have the feeling of vague inclinations and lazy deliberations. If anything, this album would be most comfortable in the medium that gave Kavinsky his notoriety — as a soundtrack. Kavinsky seems to draw inspiration not quite from contemporary electronic musicians, but rather from other forms of media like TV, film and video games. This inspiration is simultaneously a positive and negative aspect of the album. Kavinsky bravely ventured into a specific genre of electronica that has been left stagnant for years and has created a unique and enticing sound. This sound is only half−baked, however, and may be too simplistic and uncertain to be germane.
Despite the various objections that can be raised against Kavinsky and his lack of mastery, one fact still remains — the album is good. Replete with interesting electronic tangents and lyrical experiments, “Outrun” is worth a few attentive listens. Those that find themselves wishing for a return to arcade games, neon lights and fast cars will find themselves in love with this album. Kavinsky is plucky in his debut — he refuses to change his style to agree with the current interpretation of nostalgia and instead opts for his own loving homage to the decade of the 80s. With shiny synth, strong bass — much like those of Daft Punk — along with lyrical experimentation, Kavinsky successfullypresents “Outrun” in a framework of his own construction.