A dramatic and stylish return
Karl Blakesley
11:34 22nd March 2022

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I think it’s fair to say that French electro-pop pioneer Vincent Belorgey is a man who values a certain degree of anonymity. Much like his fellow countrymen and former touring partners Daft Punk, he has created an alter-ego to help keep a relatively low profile. However, where Daft Punk went down the route of hit-making robot heads, Vincent took a different approach—he created a zombie known as Kavinsky.

The story goes that Kavinsky died in a crash, then re-animated as a zombie in 2006 to bring his electronic music to the world, a narrative detailed across his first two EPs, Teddy Boy and 1986. Then in 2010, another part of Kavinsky’s tale was shared, detailing his moonlit return to his girlfriend’s house to discuss their zombified future together. This conversation was documented in Kavinsky's single 'Nightcall', which then took his story in a direction that Vincent himself didn’t even expect.

Used in the iconic opening title-sequence to Nicolas Winding Refn’s now classic 2011 movie Drive, 'Nightcall' took on a life of its own. The Drive soundtrack went to number one on the US and the UK soundtracks chart and continues to be loved by fans the world over. As a result, 'Nightcall' has racked up a mind-boggling 500 million streams and counting.

The success was sudden and startling, resulting in Vincent deciding to keep the Kavinsky character locked away for nine long years following the release of his debut album Outrun in 2013. Now having laid dormant for almost a decade, the Kavinsky character has made a dramatic and stylish return on his aptly titled new album, Reborn.

If you were a fan of Kavinsky’s debut, the chances are you’ll love this one too, as the aesthetic remains but the sounds are bigger and richer this time around. Once again inspired by '80s cinema, television and pop culture, Reborn arrives bathed in neon and brimming with cinematic synth-driven vignettes that take the listener on a nostalgic ride through the sights and sounds of the era. Playing out like a movie soundtrack, it’s the audio equivalent of strapping into a DeLorean Time Machine or Knight Rider’s KITT, with Axel Foley in the passenger seat barking directions on how to get to the Starcourt Mall so you can help him battle the invading Demogorgon—very '80s, but also an awful lot of fun.

Opener 'Pulsar' signifies Kavinsky’s reawakening with its futuristic heartbeat-like synths, before the title track chimes in with its playful shimmering melody. Lead single 'Renegade' is then a huge bass-driven, electro-funk number, with American singer-songwriter Cautious Clay providing the vocals for the track. It makes for an intoxicating start, and before you know it the pulsating groove of 'Trigger' arrives, with its short, sharp strings and whirring electronics placing you into a hypnotic dazzled trance.

'Goodbye' then switches things up slightly—based around a sombre, classical piano melody and a longing, heartfelt chorus of “Any day, anywhere, anytime, all I want is to be by your side”, it’s one of the record’s more simplistic tracks but also one of its most stunning.

'Plasma' is a complete contrast and very grandiose in a good way. It immediately picks things back up again, boasting huge acid-drenched synths, strutting guitars, disco strings, and a massively catchy chorus. 'Cameo' is also fantastic fun, a club-friendly pop banger that wouldn’t sound out of place on The Weeknd’s recent album, Dawn FM

'Zenith' is a big album highlight so as a result the next two tracks do suffer somewhat—'Vigilante' gives off RoboCop vibes with its distorted vocals and glitchy electronics, whilst 'Zombie' will have you scrambling around for a second-hand SEGA Mega Drive to fire up. Neither track is a complete misfire, however they do feel noticeably less inspired compared to the others here. 

Thankfully though, Kavinsky pulls it back around for a strong finish, with penultimate track 'Outsider' starting off as a mellow piano-driven piece that steadily builds towards a dramatic, string-tinged climax. Horizon then offers a satisfying epilogue with its atmospheric ambience, built around haunting warped vocals and transcendent beams of electronica.

Overall, this is an impressive return from Kavinsky and whilst the music isn’t breaking any new ground, it’s artistically visualised and expertly crafted throughout. The familiar electro-pop sounds and nostalgic cultural touchpoints offer warmth and vibrancy, helping to forge a record that’s an absolute blast from start to finish. His character may be dead, but it’s great to hear Kavinsky’s music is still very much alive.

Reborn arrives 25 March via Fiction/Virgin Music France.

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