It’s a wonder that for such a synthetic mode of musical expression, electronic music can produce a primal response. For French electro house artist SebastiAn, the solo releases and remixes of his six-year career offer a potent combination of sex and danger. It’s no wonder then that his first album, Total, has been such an anticipated one and he certainly hasn’t spared us any musical foreplay.
There’s the X-rated teaser video to title track ‘Total’ –a sexually violent montage of internet imagery –released in February, as well the more marketable clip to dance number ‘Embody’. With a whopping 22 songs on the album, you might believe that it comes as welcome compensation for making us wait so long for it. Yet, when many of those tracks barely make is past the 60-second mark, you get the feeling there’s a lot more to Total than a simple sum of Sebastian Akchoté’s very brilliant career.
Firstly, if the teaser featuring the warning sign of provocative content and possible epilepsy at the beginning of the ‘Total’ video is any indication, SebastiAn is an eponymous product of his (and our) time. Throwing an eclectic mix of influences, from his hip hop roots and slick R&B grooves to grunge sampling and early-millennial party-clubbing into that electro mince pioneered by fellow French dissidents Daft Punk and Justice, no sacred rock is left unturned in exploring the infinite possibilities of the digital era.
Disregarding the boundaries of that outdated concept of ‘genre’, while giving each one the respect it deserves, songs like opener ‘Hudson River’ embrace the joys of pop cabaret, while the funk of ‘Arabest’ could very well have been pulled right out of that make-believe collaboration with Prince himself. There’s the acronym-happy paranoia of ‘C.T.F.O.’ with blipster M.I.A. and who could miss the nod to the very fashionable retro computer culture of ‘Tetra’? It could have just as easily been the theme song for the Tetris/ Nintendo Gameboy bundle, circa 1980.
Of course, you could make an obscure connection between the thumping cut-up of ‘Motor’ and the deliberately naff cover art of one Lady Gaga’s new album –featuring the Pop star as a part roadhog, part human cyborg. Meanwhile, the Total cover photo by French photographer Jean-Baptiste Mondino features SebastiAn making out with himself and shares a casual affinity with the sexually perverse narcissism of popular culture and the icons that represent it –Ms Gaga included.
In becoming and Ed Banger cult figure before even making it to the live stage for the first time in 2009, SebastiAn’s talents lie in finding the best in anything, while keeping it’s original essence alive. With a mixed bag output consisting remixes of the likes of Cut Copy, Kelis, The Rapture, Klaxons and even The Kills’, SebastiAn has proved himself a successful tastemaker. He offers an ear for sound, fashion and scandal, while taking all the elements of the now, making them his own and elevating himself into the ranks of emblems for a generation.
(‘Total’ is out now in Europe, June 7 for the US)