SebastiAn has always had a penchant for distortion: he came to prominence with the second generation of French electronic musicians that took their predecessors’ sounds and put them into overdrive. So it makes sense that his long-awaited followup record still has plenty of it, from the revving bass of the opening title track to the Justice-esque grooves on Can We Talk.
Thirst is an intense record, with longer tracks taking their time to build from simple motifs to a tower of noise and shorter songs like Sev diving right in. Along the way vocal guests help set the mood, such as Mayer Hawthorne’s choral harmonies on Better Now and Charlotte Gainsbourg’s cut-up vocals on Pleasant, and stylistically the album ranges from house to brooding pop to Japanese trap.
Non-collaborative tracks are relatively sparse, but they comprise some of the record’s highlights. Beograd beat switches from an irresistible swooping riff and disco groove to a slower, ominous pulse and a sequence that’s a dead ringer for Phantom Of The Opera, while Devoyka’s string sections lend a gravitas to the track’s ethereal vocals.
During his hiatus as a solo artist SebastiAn worked with Frank Ocean on his 2016 LP Blond(e), and some of the novel approaches to vocal production seen on that record are transferred to Thirst. Extreme downsampling on the title track, megaphone amplification on Movement, and flourishes that sound like a variation on auto-tune for closing track Run For Me are all present, as well as uncredited vocal contributions that sound suspiciously like the man himself.
The record feels as if a lot of time has been spent on it – getting the sound just right, making sure the collaborations work – and the result is a triumph from a producer whose sound has lost none of its flair.