At times it feels like dance music has nowhere left to go, no stone left to upturn when it comes to the different styles within its grasp. House, garage, techno, trance – all these and more are now established for 20 years and more, and in many respects feel like they have been done to death.
Yet every so often along comes an album that makes you nod appreciatively, and realise that a gap in the stylistic market has been found that we never knew existed, or that a particular kind of emotion has been expressed through a medium that we’ve not heard before.
John Talabot’s debut long player is one such album. fIN – the reason for the florid ‘f’ unknown – is a beguiling piece of work, a succession of textures, loops, beats and atmospheres realised in such a way that it gives you either a warm glow, a heady rush of euphoria or a slight sense of melancholy, depending on your listening circumstances. What is certain though is that this is music that connects, with the brain and the feet in particular, leaving its understated mark.
What has clearly helped with the creation of this record is that Talabot hasn’t rushed it. He’s been around for some time, knocking out well received 12-inch releases for Hivern Dis and Young Turks before finding a natural home at Munich label Permanent Vacation, who specialise in that brand of slowed-down disco and house hybrids that give off such an appealing warmth.
That warmth is present here, felt in tracks like When The Past Was Present, which sports a virtually untempered block keyboard riff straight out of 1992, cosying up to the Liquid rave anthem Sweet Harmony for company. Depak Ine, the rather fine opening statement, is more spacious and chilled, but cleverly keeps a sense of forward movement throughout, a technique Talabot shows himself to be very adept at applying.
There are two tracks with guest vocalist Pional, one of which, Destiny, swoons as it shows off Talabot’s capability towards a genuine pop song. The simplest of riffs builds and leads to a catchy chorus, hinting at M83 along the way. Meanwhile El Oeste explores the darker side and a potential for hidden menace, the sleights of its pitch adjustments faintly disturbing, particularly given the warmer climes explored by Talabot elsewhere.
This is, then, a remarkably assured and instinctive piece of work, one that speaks of good times on the dancefloor while not being afraid to throw in more poignant and affecting emotions, all wrapped up in clothing that falls nicely on an ambient blend of disco and house. Even in these congested musical times, it arrives at that happy knack of being one of its kind.