Plucked from relative obscurity by Kanye West to co-produce two tracks (“Black Skinhead,” “Send It Up”) with Daft Punk for his recent sixth album, Yeezus, French techno wizard Gesaffelstein, aka Mike Lévy, isn’t likely to disappear back into the underground any time soon, judging by his full-length debut, Aleph.
Indeed, the majority of its fourteen tracks possess the same uncompromising spirit which defined the hip-hop egomaniac’s recent US chart-topper, none more so than on opener “Out Of Line,” which begins with a preacher-like sermon before a buzzing synth drone, a wave of clattering beats and a death-knell bell signal the intense and ominous mood ahead.
From then on, Gesaffelstein barely pauses for breath. “Pursuit” is a punishing blend of bludgeoning synths, firing lasers and nightmarish chants which recalls The Chemical Brothers’ late 90s heyday. “Hellifornia” is a suitably-titled take on G-funk which combines an almost unbearably high-pitched synth hook with jackhammer beats and rapid-fire Space Invaders-style effects. And “Destinations” adds to the sense of disorientation as a deadpan stream-of-consciousness female vocal fights to be heard above a whirlwind of gurgling bass-lines and whirring sirens.
Aleph, therefore, isn’t for the faint-hearted. But thankfully, there are at least a few more tranquil moments which offer some respite from all the noise. “Piece Of Future” starts out with a Boards Of Canada-esque piece of analogue ambience before exploding into life with a skittering drum ‘n’ bass beat. Elsewhere, the downtempo 80s-tinged electro of “Nameless,” the slow-motion angst of the title track and the twinkling electronica of closer “Perfection” also help to restore some much-needed calm.
Clocking in at just under the hour mark, Aleph perhaps inevitably runs out of ideas towards the final third. But overall, it’s a thrilling, if potentially headache-inducing listen, which positions Gesaffelstein as a future king of techno.
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