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SebastiAn 'Total' Album Review

SebastiAn’s album is incredibly hard to classify into one particular genre, known as the dark horse of the Ed Banger family, he has been waiting in the wings for what seems like ages, but now he’s ready to take the limelight – it has been a long in coming, but oh boy was it worth the wait.

With his debut album ‘Total’ he has delivered an album that manages to beat the hype into submission with a cacophony of rugged, high-energy raw sounds that takes over from where Justice left off – while remaining true to the Ed Banger aesthetic.

The sheer number of tracks is the first surprise of the album as it comes in at whopping 22 tracks, now not all of these full-fledged tracks, some are sketches, reprises, nuggets of genius from Seb.

The album opens with ‘Hudson River’ a 51 one second introduction that serves as an aperitif of what’s to come, an album that references everything from his unique taste in music – don’t be surprised if you hear slices and dices of twisted hip-hop, rugged R&B, french filtered disco, coarse techno, IDM, and of cause Ed Banger rock.

The opening four tracks starts you on an amazing journey into the mind of Sebastian and it’s one of the most exciting journey’s you will take this year.

He takes the baton from Justice and run rings around ‘Cross’. It’s everything you would want and more, it lives up to the hype and in many place exceeds it. It’s harder, more diverse and more relentless than we’d had ever imagined – he’s fulfils the mantra of being the dark horse of the Ed Rec crew and he does it in a style and originality rarely seen from today’s plethora of over-the-top bangers. The anti-Aoki if you will.

He explains; “I wanted to avoid the same banging formula that I’ve been using for 4 years. I wanted to try something new. I don’t see albums as the result of a sum of work that would completely define me, but rather like one more project among others. In a year or two, I’ll probably be doing something different.

Introduced by his brother Noël Akchoté (a famous jazzman) to all kinds of music from an early age, Sebastian started making music very naturally – at the age of 14, “twiddling all sorts of things on my computer.” Amongst other things hip-hop was to be a key influence.

In 2005, a meeting with Pedro Winter (then managing Daft Punk) who was in the process of setting up Ed Banger led to Sebastian being quickly ushered into the fold – “I went to see him with quite an eclectic demo. He called me a few days later saying he wasn’t interested in my rap tracks, but he was very impressed with my production work. I signed with Ed Banger a few days later.”

The opening salvos include ‘Love In Motion,’ the amazing debut single ‘Embody’ and then his classic track ‘Ross Ross Ross,’ which seems to have been given a 2011 make-over. It shows off his new side, which marries funk and cut-up electro to devastating effect.

It reminded us of some of Shook’s amazing funk electro – probably why Pedro said when he heard it for the first time he immediately thought of “Prince and Sebastian sharing a glass of wine in smoky Parisian basement”.

The first proper new banger comes in the shape of ‘Fried’ a coarse piece of classic SebastiAn electro, it reaks of electro of days gone by, something that would have destroyed dancefloors back in 2006 – it’s intense, unforgiving and everything you would want from SebastiAn – with nods to Justice and Daft Punk too.

Following straight on Seb treats you to ‘Kindercut’ a 21st century tour-de force of filtered French house with the ubiquitous SebastiAn’s rough and uncompromising production all over it. One of the finest tracks on the album.

For every banger found on ‘Total,’ there is a counter to it; these come in the form of another fantastic funk electro gem that is ‘Arabest’ for us a track that for-fills Pedro’s dream of SebastiAn and Prince sharing a glass of Red wine in a smokey basement in Paris.

There’s still a couple of annoying tracks to be found and we all know which ones were referring to, ‘Total’ is a crazy minute of grunge rock with just a smidgen of electro, it not a total downer, but it just SebastiAn being SebastiAn – being an agent of provocation.

As the dark member of the Ed Rec family he’s never one to shy away from provocation, the album’s cover (a collaboration with legendary French photographer Mondino) is an image of Sebastian locked into a passionate embrace with himself.

‘I rarely do things for a specific reason, the idea of a double kissing itself represents my vision of the artistic posture; it’s a type of serious joke on the relationship that an artist has with his ego. Also, my first covers were a tracing of my face, so I wanted to follow that idea with a photograph while adding something new. When you play a game, you should play it all the way or not at all. So, for instance, even if you don’t like your face you should embrace it, emphasise it, even! The choice of black and white is to break with the often very colourful graphics of techno. The cover signed by Mondino symbolises the total desire of the creator, the absolute ego of the artist who kisses and devours himself.”

The second half of the CD picks up the pace, the intensity and quality of tracks with the Breakbot-esque ‘Arabest’ which isn’t a million miles away from the new Breakbot single, just a darker more grinding interpretation.

‘Prime’ nods both to Justice and Daft Punk – when you hear it you know it’s classic SebastiAn the sort of track that harks back to early day’s of ‘Motor’ and ‘Ross Ross Ross’ but it’s more mature, more thought out and very cool.

The album finishes on high with the stunning new tracks in the form of the Queen homage ‘Yes’ and ‘Tetra’ these alone propel the CD to another level. ‘Total’ sits alongside the greats of French electronic music, it will certainly be spoken in the same breathe of Daft Punk’s ‘Homework,’ Justice’s ‘Cross’ Vitalic’s ‘Ok Cowboy’.

It is a definitive snap-shot of everything we know and love about SebastiAn and Ed Banger Records – a meteoric first album in every sense of the word. And definitely and a contender for album of the year.

HBF 8/10