Rave on, Dad.
Mirwais Ahmadzai is 39 years old. As far as we can gather, ‘Production’ is his first solo album for a considerable length of time, possibly ever. In the early-1980s, the Italian-Afghani was the guitarist in a Parisian band called Taxi Girl, whose attempts at fusing brittle new-wave punk with Kraftwerk synth swagger attracted minimal attention in this country and at home, and most of that focused on the group’s fondness for wearing uniform red shirts and black ties – a direct homage to their robotic German heroes. Ravaged by drugs, Taxi Girl are little more than a footnote in French pop history.
Twenty years on, and though the shirt and tie no longer fit, the man’s propensity for marrying raddled electronica with conventional songwriting still holds strong. So impressed by his cyber-balladry and acid-singed disco was Madonna that she asked Mirwais to co-produce her next album alongside William Orbit and, most recently, Sasha. Sensing a pretty decent opportunity, Mirwais accepted and now finds himself famous by default, credible by association, the ‘hottest producer’ since, well, 43-year-old Orbit.
It’s also the reason for the late inclusion of ‘Paradise (Not For Me)’, a lush six-minute lament sung by Madge (and which may appear on her album) absent from initial promotional copies of ‘Production’ on which she whispers, “I can’t remember when I was young”.
In common with his Paris-based peers and fellow travellers Daft Punk, Air and The Micronauts, Mirwais has an irony-free appreciation of the past, and embellishes much of his album with the kind of spacious, synthetic effects most producers would (rightly) dismiss as passi: Cher-like vocoder trickery (‘Naive Song’) and, on ‘Disco Science’, a slab of irresistible wild-pitched acid contortion cryogenically preserved since 1986. Admittedly, Depeche Mode covered similar sombre synth territory the first time round, but Mirwais, ever the revisionist, liberally chucks ‘Da Funk’ beats and chattering techno into his unashamedly old-skool mix.
Ultimately, there’s no escaping the fact that ‘Production’ is the sound of an old punk playing catch-up with dance music. Mirwais missed acid house, missed most of the ’90s actually, and that probably accounts for his fresh, almost naive approach to his subject. We’ve heard this many times before. But we’re prepared, just, to listen one more time. Rave on, Dad.