Wednesday, September 21, 2016

AFFKT - Son Of A Thousand Sounds Review

One night in the summer of 2007 I was visiting a friend. I was 14 at the time, so we did what was expected; shoot hoops, play video games, swam in the pool. During a late night television surf we came upon MTV2 and the music video for The Chemical Brothers' 'Salmon Dance,' followed not long after by 'Do It Again.' My friend laughed, not thinking much of the absurdity on screen. I, however, whilst doing the same, also felt mesmerized by the sight. This would become my first exposure to Electronic music in my infant discovery-seeking phase. In a lot of ways, while AFFKT, one of Spain's premier DJ's, draws upon other Chemical Brothers releases, along with a slew of other Electronic acts spanning numerous subgenres, his sophomore LP Son Of A Thousand Sounds brings me back to those days where We Are The Night governed my musical direction. Whittling the Big Beat era down to an exact science, the 12 tracks here scour AFFKT's source material looking for pivot points disguised to get dance clubs moving and critical listeners inspecting.

To me, while Son Of A Thousand Sounds certainly comes equip with AFFKT's modern flavor, using high-fidelity production techniques not unlike some of the most famous DJ's of the current era, the LP draws more parallels to the past as a means to bring it to the future. And really, while the Big Beat era is long gone, even the last breaths where R&B singers attempted to keep it alive, the genre itself was always two steps ahead. In this regard, for listeners who want to take a fresh look into the past, A Thousand Sounds is prime nostalgia material. You won't find an album like it in 2016, that's for sure. The starting trio of 'Dreamback,' 'Oxi,' and 'San Diego' send A Thousand Sounds to the dancefloor before listeners are even able to settle. It's the intro, 'Dreamback,' that will draw comparisons to Tycho, and rightfully so, with AFFKT's use of acid-drenched synths. While Tycho's music deals more with atmosphere and defining a mood, AFFKT's take on it sees the Spanish DJ pulling Tycho out of his fantasy world and onto the front stage of a rave. However, follow-up 'Oxi' finds Canadian producer Caribou and revisits his older material, before our first taste of The Chemical Brothers adoration becomes clear on 'San Diego.'

There's another key point to discover on A Thousand Sounds, and that's the three contributions from Sutja Gutierrez. If you weren't a fan of those singer-obsessed Big Beat days in the mid-2000's I'd say to steer clear, but that's only after giving the three tracks a shot, as all are done with elegance, professionally mastered and condensed to make wonderful dance party material. Gutierrez's spots aren't shoehorned in either, they feel like mini-climaxes, keeping the LP enticing throughout. And while The Chemical Brothers echoes are clear, especially on 'FlashCrash,' which I'm still perplexed as to how it's not them, the other two efforts, 'The Show' and 'Someone In The Sky,' make a case of their own, presenting a style that's both honoring the past while fulfilling a new lane. Needless to say, Gutierrez's vocals are exactly what's needed to switch up AFFKT's style without degrading the process. 'The Show' in particular, is just a joyous romp, with slight vocal effects and constant structural modifications that keep the single entertaining throughout.

Not just a stylistic take on an old friend, A Thousand Sounds also dabbles in some left field detours to appease a crowd that's not necessarily in front of AFFKT and his turntables. 'Between Us' and 'Boira (With Upercent)' are the two noted tracks in this regard, playing around with unusual structures and uncharacteristic elements. The latter, for example, finds itself amongst a slew of otherworldly palates and clashing objects. These detours, while they may not attract audiences looking for an immediate punch, give the LP ample diversity, something that's needed when making an Electronic album. Meanwhile, 'Ceniza' is just all-around goodness with a multitude of shifting parts despite barely escaping the two-minute threshold. In actuality, it's the best representation of the album's cover; a wild, colorful tropical island. And lastly, 'Esclafit (With Piek)' works as a great finish, surmising the album's appeal while sounding unlike any of its brethren, coming instead close to Gold Panda and his scattered brand of Microhouse. Through and through, with a variety that warrants the vivid title and cover, AFFKT's sophomore LP is an invigorating trip down memory lane while standing in the present.

Son Of A Thousand Sounds drops Friday, September 23rd.

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