In an age of visual superficiality, where else should we start with SebastiAn’s debut album, “Total” (30 May 2011 in the Europe; 7 June 2011 in the USA), than with the cover? Seemingly, it is a black and white cover of two men kissing themselves; however, it is the image of Sebastian Akchoté (the man behind the moniker SebastiAn) kissing himself. Photographed by Jean-Baptiste Mondino (known for directing videos for the likes of Björk, David Bowie, and Madonna), the image on the cover, on the level of the psyche, captures the relationship of the “person” to the “artist.” Like all great love affairs, which are the merging of two individuals, art is created with the merging of two distinct ingredients: the consciousness (the person behind the artist) and the ego (the insistent drive to create something from nothing). It is when this coupling is immaculate that “art” (in the classic, non-pejorative sense) is created. Akchoté self-kissing image is of the man embracing with the artist, the conscious logic with the subconscious drive to create. The culmination, aptly, is “Total” – an electronic wonderland of riveting sounds, extensive melodies, and the unpredictable.
Let me be a stereotypical American: it would take a French man with balls to produce this kind of cover! And this French man not only has the balls, but also the chops to truly push the French electro-house tradition one notch higher. Sebastian Akchoté has all of the basics down when it comes to house, but there is more than dance floor antics going on here. While flirting with 80s beats, 90s musical tropes, and current indie urgency, Akchoté has created a musical soundscape where house, electronic body music, intelligent dance music, French electronica, and Euro disco all collude to create an amazing experience. What I really like about “Total” is Akchoté’s ability to keep the listener on his/her toes, unable to predict when and where there will be a shift and how it will shift, yet the album is never disarming. From beginning to end, the listener is sonically induced into the experience.
“Total” opens with “Hudson River”; it is near piano driven indie, under one-minute track that sublimely draws you into the collection, right into “Love In Motion,” which features Mayer Hawthorne. Closer to downtempo than electro-house, the distinction between the two opening tracks couldn’t be starker: from indie urgency to dance floor funk, “Total” is a plethora of musical styles and genres. Furthermore, I am usually put off by small interludes, which often time are nothing more than an artist annoyingly killing a few seconds on an album. This is not the case with “Total,” which is laced with quite a few interludes (“Though Games,” “Water Games,” “Cartoon,” Mean Games,” “Night,” and “Bird Games”). These (mini-)tracks are as riveting and captivating as the longer tracks and act brilliantly to segue between tracks. The best way to think about them is to consider this album the set list for an hour on a dance floor; these interludes are the transition from one style of house to the next, with fluidic ease.
If you are accustomed to house music that comes in radio format, not only have you been deceived about what house is really about, “Total” is going to be a total eye opener. It is always ideal to remember that this is music meant to be listened to on a dance floor, not over speakers in your house or car. “Total” is gritty, grinding, and sensually dark and euphoric and meant to be danced to. And with this album you get an experience that takes you all over the map. For instance, “Dogg,” in its orgiastic and aggressive arrangements, brings a rock mentality and sound to house music, while “Arabest” has the same underpinnings of 80s R&B pop music. “Motor” uses the sound of an accelerating engine, at times without a beat, to create a gritty moment on the dance floor, while “Fried” collides EBM, funk, and French electronica brilliantly. My obsession on the album is the track “Kindercut.” This track is perfect house frolic, as it oscillates through sounds and variant degrees of layered music (with a disco-esque guitar loop).
Of course, I should have taken the time to post this one weeks ago! But I still remember my first listen to this album. I am always on the look out for good house music, which radio has adulterated to the point of being painfully unlistenable, but Sebastian Akchoté, a.k.a. SebastiAn, really gave me repose from the unfortunate world of radio house mediocrity. He has created an electro-house tour de force with “Total” that is thoroughly infectiously addictive and one of the “must haves” of 2011.
1. Hudson River
2. Love in Motion, featuring Mayer Hawthorne
3. Tough Games
5. Ross Ross Ross
8. Water Games
10. Jack Wire, instrumental version
11. C.T.F.O., featuring M.I.A.
15. Mean Games
20. Bird Game
23. Organia, Bonus Track
Keep up with SebastiAn at his MySpace and Facebook.
Here is his video for “Embody” from the officialEDREC YouTube Channel.