SebastiAn
Total


4.0
excellent

Review

by Conrad Tao EMERITUS
May 30th, 2011 | 123 replies


Release Date: 2011 | Tracklist

Review Summary: You don't need subtlety if you're already awesome.

Sebastian Akchoté doesn't deal in subtlety. He doesn't have time to, not when he's putting on some of the most exciting live shows around, plastering eye-gougings and porn into a one-and-a-half-minute music video, turning vocal samples into percussive gunshots, employing M.I.A. to spit at listeners and tell them that they need to "chill the fuck out", and, oh, passionately kissing himself on his album cover. His music is quintessential Ed Banger fodder, with its blown-out, compressed-to-shit beats that might as well have "français" branded on their asses - built for dancing, not analyzation. It's most accurately categorized as "electro house", which doesn't really capture the raw power of Akchoté's debut long-player as SebastiAn, Total - but then again, what could? It's impossible to adequately relay the energy found throughout the album's 50-minute runtime, which is why Akchoté's use of big, brash gestures is perfectly acceptable - enjoyable, even. Who needs nuance when you're awesome?

Total is really, really awesome - it's that rare dance record that sounds just as compelling and exciting on shitty computer speakers as it does on massive club subwoofers. Even more impressively, it dispels all notions that SebastiAn is purely a singles artist, taking the best elements of the producer's previous EPs and remixes and fleshing them out into a convincing, cohesive whole. Opener "Hudson River" lays the formula out clearly and efficiently, with its clipped vocal samples, massive cut-and-paste house beats built for headbanging, and primary-colored orchestral blasts that recall the prim string arrangements of classic house (minus any and all discreetness, of course). From here, Total proceeds much like a fantastic live set, and while Akchoté's adherence to his tried-and-true formula can get tiring (the constant usage of fading and swelling in his outros gets particularly predictable), his beats and melodies are strong enough to stand on their own; the album's exhilarating opening seven-track stretch is a particularly successful fusion of traditional house and funk with SebastiAn's signature distortion.

More than that, it's a testament to the producer's remarkable ability to craft music that sounds at once familiar yet still somewhat novel, if not exactly unique. SebastiAn is certainly treading on familiar ground here - Justice's Cross and the acid house of Homework are two fairly immediate points of comparison - but his touch is defter than that of Augé and Rosnay (even if Augé lends his musical sophistication to one of Total's best tracks, "Tetra"), and he's more brazen and visceral than the agreeable robots of Daft Punk. You'd never find Thomas and Guy-Manuel making a track as hard as the brilliant "Motor", which eschews harmony entirely in favor of monolithic walls of noise. Similarly, the aforementioned M.I.A.-featuring "C.T.F.O." will sound recognizable to anybody familiar with last year's Maya, yet the track has the sort of strong rhythmic edge that M.I.A.'s unfairly maligned third album intentionally avoided. It's hard as fuck, sure, but it's still stuff to get down to. When SebastiAn does slip up, it's the result of a discernible lack of effort - the orchestral samples of "Prime" just aren't interesting enough to sustain the song's running time, and "Arabest", the most conventional house track on the album, is pat and unremarkable. It's disappointing, sure, but at the very least, those two weak spots are placed side by side towards the center of the album, serving as an intermission before Total kicks into high gear again.

Which, come to think of it, is almost necessary, because music this relentlessly thunderous can be exhausting to listen to at length. Certainly, without the album's numerous transitory tracks, the brutal Prodigy-esque "Doggg" would lose some of its impact. SebastiAn's sense of structure is essential to his debut being as consistently enjoyable as it is; compelling but not pretentious, distinctive but not affected, Total is a superb album fashionably disinterested in its own excellence. I return to those images of SebastiAn DJing in clubs grinning with a cigarette in his mouth, the perfect distillation of his aesthetic and approach. If you're after delicate shades of color, look elsewhere. Everybody else - the doors to this garishly lighted club are wide open.



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user ratings (120)
Chart.
3.8
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
conradtao
Emeritus
May 30th 2011


2090 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Meh, I don't care for this review, but whatever - it's a great record. The Noisia comparison is a bit dubious, but
"Fried" made me think of it.

Blindsided
May 30th 2011


1871 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Great review.
This sounds interesting I'll have to check it out.

conradtao
Emeritus
May 30th 2011


2090 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

http://vimeo.com/20291894

Here's the teaser SebastiAn used to promote the album. I mention it in the review.

balcaen
May 30th 2011


3183 Comments


dat album cover
dat dat dat

no really though review makes me want to check this out thanks conrad

HBFS
May 30th 2011


1258 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Awesome album

Digging: Banks - Goddess

Blindsided
May 30th 2011


1871 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Umm for mature audiences only.

conradtao
Emeritus
May 30th 2011


2090 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

You didn't think that a video that I described as being filled with "eyeball gougings and porn" was going to safe for work, did you?

FelixCulpa
May 30th 2011


1240 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I like those recommended albums, will check out!

Lucid
Contributing Reviewer
May 30th 2011


7026 Comments


Sounds gay. Will check out.

Digging: Perfume Genius - Too Bright

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
May 30th 2011


31162 Comments


How does it sound gay? Also, that Noisia comparison is very dubious

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=awtiZEiiAE8
Can I just say that this kid has more swag than anything OF will ever hope to conjure up

Digging: LV and Joshua Idehen - Islands

ThyCrossAwaits
May 30th 2011


3052 Comments


Yeah, don't talk shit about Total.

Heeheehee.

iisblackstar
May 30th 2011


431 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thats exactly what i thought Dev when i first saw the video haha.
The Daft Punk feel is the most noticeable for me, thats who i thought it was when i heard Embody on the radio first time.
Great album.. good review.

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
May 30th 2011


31162 Comments


I think everyone connects this with Daft Punk seeing as how they are the most commercially successful French house act

Dogget
May 30th 2011


781 Comments


Can't wait to hear this now. Good to see Motor on there I love that track

iisblackstar
May 30th 2011


431 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yeah fair call thats probably my first reaction to any house music i listen to ha.

conradtao
Emeritus
May 30th 2011


2090 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

I always figured that the Justice comparison was more obvious, to be quite honest..

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
May 30th 2011


31162 Comments


I agree, Justice are far more electro leaning that Daft Punk

Calculate
May 31st 2011


1135 Comments


cantwaittohearthissss

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
May 31st 2011


31162 Comments


Just out of curiosity, what made you think of The Prodigy for 'Doggg'? Was it the vocals?

conradtao
Emeritus
May 31st 2011


2090 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

"Just out of curiosity, what made you think of The Prodigy for 'Doggg'?"

It was the combination of dark and distorted vocals (that border on being humorously over-the-top) mixed with heavy beats - which isn't particularly uncommon, sure, but The Prodigy are one of the more high-profile acts that work that combination to death. 'Doggg' at first reminded me of 'Stress' off of Cross, but that's (a) an awfully specific comparison for a review and (b) a bit redundant in context.



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