SebastiAn - Total

Fun, thrilling and boisterous.

Label: Because Music

Rating: 8

Should you judge a record by its cover? The sleeve art of ‘Total’ – the debut album from French techno auteur SebastiAn (that capitalised “A” clearly sparing confusion with Skid Row pouter Bach or romantic novelist Faulks) – features SebastiAn snogging, well, SebastiAn. According to our protagonist, this represents the “absolute ego of the artist”, perhaps the sort of thing we’d expect of U2 album art, but it also invites us to love him as he loves himself. It’s not such an outlandish notion.

Seb’s pounded around the margins for some time now, impressing Ed Banger enough to sign him on the strength of a few demos and making a name (with a capitalised “A”) for himself with some ear-catching remixes for the likes of Klaxons and Bloc Party, a portion of which were collected for a compilation called – the very thought – ‘Remixes’. There have been some EPs too, and most of the lead tracks – ‘Motor’, ‘Ross Ross Ross’ – crop up here, but even in this pell-mell digital age you need an album to cement your place, affirm your style. And SebastiAn does demonstrate a signature method – a clanging meld of hip-hop, funk and techno with voices culled from samples or the odd guest, a strong sense of the cinematic – albeit a method you can’t imagine existing without tough-funk Gallic forebears Daft Punk and Justice. Still, let’s consider him the latest torchbearer, not a callow copycat.

Over twenty two (there’s no other word for it) banging tracks, ‘Total’ sustains a hard-partying groove, squeezing everything through the synthesised mincer and holding attention with every switch of the groove. Even the interludes – about a third of the songs – are attractive, the Brass Construction jazz-edged disco of ‘Water Games’ in particular crying out for a lengthier treatment. But Seb’s happy to leave us craving more. Real vocals are scattered sparsely and honestly don’t feel missed, although Mayer Hawthorne’s Princey contribution to ‘Love In Motion’ is a blast and MIA’s dashed-off turn over the creeping menace of ‘C.T.F.O.’ is charmingly in your face – “Chill the fuck out”, indeed. Above all, though, it’s the blistering, spluttering, instrumental electro-funk that wins the day.

It’s cheeky on ‘Hudson River”s ELO-like crashing glam pop (all 50 seconds of it), fierce on the shuddering white noise of ‘Ross Ross Ross’ and pure Harold Faltermeyer Beverly Hills Cop electro on ‘Yes’. On ‘Arabest’, Seb even achieves the improbable feat of making Chromeo-style slap-bass revivalism seem like a smashing idea. If even that kind of brinkmanship comes up trumps, you know you’re onto a winner – and ‘Total’ barely puts a foot wrong. It’s fun, thrilling and boisterous. Perhaps a bit of light and shade wouldn’t go amiss, but – whatever – there’s no harm every now and then getting down and dirty with a breakneck head-bashing rush. SebastiAn: Not the chap making a pig’s ear of Olympic ticket sales.