Few 21st century artists have crafted a sound as singular and memorable as Kavinsky’s. The French producer’s creations are an exercise in cool, noirish maximalism: big beats and spacey synths with a sci-fi feel. His breakthrough single ‘Nightcall’ set the tone perfectly for the opening credits of 2011 film Drive, Kavinsky’s booming creation playing as an unnamed getaway driver (played by Ryan Gosling) cruises through downtown LA to stew on his dastardly work. The song has become synonymous with the film and defined its wildly successful soundtrack, even though it features for just a few minutes.
‘OutRun’, the concept album that followed in 2013, was similarly dramatic, the record’s main character a zombie who survives a crash in a Ferrari and uses his second lease of life to create electronic music. ‘Drivers License’ it ain’t. But it left Kavinsky typecast and his creations boxed him in, he recently told NME. “I was scared to imagine what my music was going to be after this success.”
‘Reborn’, Kavinsky’s first record in nearly nine years, carries the air of a more relaxed creator – he was blatant enough to tell us this record is, quite literally, about “driving the car more slowly”. But what Kavinsky considers the scenic route still leaves deep tyre marks: ‘Trigger’ and ‘Renegade’ are as ambitious and futuristic as anything he’s ever done. In fact, the album’s lead single, ‘Zenith’, was imagined as a sequel to ‘Nightcall’ – proof that the past looms large in the rear-view mirror.
For purveyors of the French house scene, this record will feel familiar to a fault. Vocalist Morgan Phalen – who sang on several Justice tracks, including 2011’s ‘On’n’On’ and ‘New Lands’ – features on four of the songs. Much of this record is permeated with the aforementioned electronic duo’s brand of gothic-funk, meaning that some of Kavinsky’s identity is lost.
The title suggests total rebirth, which feels a little overblown – but when Kavinsky eases up on maximalism, the songs flourish and we see a different side to his production prowess. ‘Zombie’ has all the swagger and pep of his previous collaborator The Weeknd, while the tempered nature of ‘Cameo’ and ‘Renegade’ allow traditional pop songwriting to coexist with bolshy, bone-crunching settings. These fleeting moments are by far ‘Reborn’s most satisfying, and offer proof that there’s plenty more creative road for Kavinsky to bomb it down in years to come.
Release date: March 25
Record label: Fiction/Virgin Music France