Monday, 18 March 2013

Kavinsky - Outrun

Kavinsky is a French dj and producer, specializing in mixing Italo, prog, hip-hop and synth-pop into a neon lit blend of sleazy discos and dark alleys. Over the last ten years he’s remixed the likes of Klaxons and Sebastien Tellier and appeared in Grand Theft Auto as a radio disc jockey but his career got its biggest boost when his track ‘Nightcall’, featuring Lovefoxx from CSS, appeared over the opening credits of the highly successful Ryan Gosling film ‘Drive’.
He’s happy to exploit the cinematic connection here, with the spoken-word opener ‘Prelude’ setting up a B-movie-esque concept of crashing cars and zombie-like resurrection, which weaves in and out of ‘Outrun’. ‘Blizzard’s catchy synth riff channels Daft Punk by the dashboard light whilst ‘Protovision’s swirling hair-metal guitar and monumental drum kick sounds like M83 hitting the club but it’s ‘Oddlook’ which bares the closest resemblance to the ubiquitous ‘Nightcall’, fronted by a drawling vocal from French singer Sebastian that ratchets up the menace.

Tellingly Kavinsky keeps us waiting until track eight to deliver ‘Nightcall’ itself, the track whose slow, textured synth and metronomic thump has become synonymous with Ryan Gosling’s turn as the calm, slightly menacing getaway driver of Nicholas Winding Refn’s BAFTA winning movie. Even two years after we heard it, the bleeps and heavily treated vocals still sound beguiling, with Lovefoxx’s cooed chorus giving a voice to Carey Mulligan’s scared single mother.

Another older track ‘Testarossa Autodrive’ dates back to 2006 yet draws on the same Ferrari freeway computer game that gives the record its title. Launched in 1984 as the stock market
peaked, the car itself is synonymous with eighties excess so it’s only fitting that the song is a suitably unsubtle blend of 4/4 kick and skyscraping synths on a record which treats restraint as merely one more obstacle to be driven over in a screech of blue tyre smoke.
However, for all its free-ride fantasies, ‘Outrun’s greatest flaw is one highlighted by the appearance of Havoc from Mobb Deep with a stale, car-themed rap: predictability. True, subtlety was never going to be a primary concern on a record that broadcasts its aesthetic concerns in garish script on the cover but every chord change, whistling synth line or effects-laden vocal may as well be signposted in twenty foot high neon letters. Perhaps it’s a product of his commitment to bringing to life the sounds of the late eighties but a little deftness of touch would doubtless do no harm.

Like fellow Frenchman M83, Kavinsky makes music to explode into life as a snowboarder hurls himself over the edge of a mountain or a climber leaps for that elusive edge, but for all its epic soundtrack potential and its overwhelming obsession with 1986 the real surprise about ‘Outrun’ is, for the most part, how vital it sounds. Kavinsky’s glossy production sweeps you into a world in which synths blare from every stereo and white, satin scorpion jackets are a legitimate fashion choice and as such it’s difficult to resist the call to put the pedal to the metal.


Max Sefton

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