Posted by: Jeff | February 24, 2012

Album Review: John Talabot – “ƒIN”

John Talabot – ƒIN

Permanent Vacation
Release Date: January 2012
Grade: A-

John Talabot – “Destiny” ft. Pional

John Talabot may hail from the sunny paradise of Barcelona, but the remix and production work he’s done under the Talabot moniker in advance of his debut full-length is darker and more off-kilter than one might expect to come from a city known for its beach scene.  If Talabot’s music is unexpected it is in part because the man himself is so mysterious – in fact, very few people know his true identity.  It’s a fitting anonymity, as Talabot’s productions are dark and nocturnal, suited for intimate journeys through a night-time city scape as much as for the club.

Though Talabot’s productions may be rooted in the balaeric house of his native Spain, his work on ‘ƒIN’ occupies a logical space between the dance scene and the more intellectual compositions of shimmery indie pop electronicists like Gold Panda, Apparat, and Caribou.  Where Talabot finds particular success is his incorporation of mid-tempo house and nu-disco structure to unique ambient textures and sampling – from tribal drum patterns to the use of jungle frog and bird noises to introduce the sinister opener “Depak Ine.”

The result is raw and organic, and many of the tracks on ‘ƒIN’ rise up from ambient noise and envelope the listener.  The way Talabot adds layer after layer of samples and effects upon natural-sounding drums on “Depak Ine” creates a live ecosystem of interwoven parts.  To emphasize the effect, frogs chirp periodically right through to the end.  “El Oeste” squirms and pulsates like a living thing as well, adding depth and color to a production that might otherwise have fit on a Gold Panda record.  The deep melodic groove and organic percussion of “Oro y Sangre” and “Missing You” echo the seedy grunge of Matthew Dear’s work, down to the use of overly-distorted vocals as counter-melody.

While ‘ƒIN’ features plenty of experimental instrumental compositions, there are some immediately accessible tracks here too.  “Destiny” is a singularly brilliant cut, effortlessly combining solid pop construction with off-kilter percussion and a foggy vocal performance from Pional that includes just enough reverb to sound ethereal.  It’s a groovy and immediate earworm.  “When The Past Was Present” incorporates Talabot’s organic textures in a more traditionally balaeric format, giving rise to a build that would go over very well at peak-time in a Barcelona club.  Though the track never pushes the metronome, it positively careens toward the finish, and you can’t help but dance.  “So Will Be Now…”, the second track to feature Pional, is Ibiza by way of Burial, establishing a deep groove underneath mutated vocals that echo out of the dark.

The brilliant moments on ‘ƒIN’ far outweigh minor missteps – an unfortunate collaboration with Delorean’s Ekhi, for example – and further listens expand the album to even more discovery.  Put this one on the headphones some dark and quiet night and see where it takes you – it will be a fun ride.

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