Rating: 4.0/5.0

Label: PIAS America

Vitalic may have achieved some level of notoriety for one zany music video that happened to reach viral nirvana (“Poney Pt. 1”), but his debut, OK Cowboy, should have garnered Pascal Arbez popularity just by virtue of the music itself. Though it was created as much as a featurette for earlier singles as full length proper, OK Cowboy is a shockingly complete album – the kind of collection so balanced in its sequencing, calculated in its composition and unique in its sound to truly merit a fully-dedicated listen. And that’s while being a beat-heavy, dirty-distortion Euro-dance album. So expectations should be high when listening to Flashmob, Vitalic’s first studio full-length since OK Cowboy. Those expectations may make it an album harder to appreciate initially, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t make its way (sampled, split up or otherwise) to the dance floor; Flashmob is just as good as its predecessor, though built on less immediate pleasures than the patchwork singles of OK Cowboy.

Vitalic’s sound is a glossy club enterprise, and not much has changed some four years after his worthy debut. The thumping beats and electro-soaked instrumentation still parade garishly at the front of the mix, arousing but not quite as interesting as the first time around. OK Cowboy may not have proven to be the OK Computer of electronica, but its over-the-top mixing and utter disregard for high-volume fidelity was a daring approach to production and songwriting that played upon the variation fellow Frenchmen Daft Punk laid down with Discovery and unarguably created a musical climate where bands like Justice and Simian Mobile Disco can thrive. Arbez must know this, as he crafted Flashmob in the same style, but he did throw in some variations on his typical glitchy sound. And most of them work well. While OK Cowboy is best when it aggressively pursues various world styles and quirky sonic textures (European folk influences on “Wooo”), Flashmob saves its variety for dissonance, amplitude and general moments of contrast. The hairpin turn from “One Above One” to “Still” channels dub-step and slaps on a thick coat of Arbez’s trademark charm, jumping from playful beats one song to a slow and aggressive grinder the next. He keeps those shifts going for most of the album – only failing to enthrallingly entertain when those jumps get less frequent and dramatic, allowing the mix to settle.

But Flashmob takes its only real hit in that few of its tracks have the same standout tone or novel playfulness that made the songs on OK Cowboy as good as they are, but then again they’re not grab-bag singles as on the latter. Flashmob does have a more consistent tone about it, suggesting Vitalic crafted with a tighter focus and a final product in mind. Sadly, the stylistic undercurrent that flows throughout Flashmob (equal parts new-age dreaminess and the grimy feel of a packed club) will be initially less important here than the lack of genre-shaking sounds to be found in each individual track. Arbez’s work is the kind of explosive music that is best in small quantities but continues to be interesting time and time again, making his first album a reliable treasure trove for listeners and DJs alike. Flashmob feels more like one project that Arbez planned accordingly from start to finish, but probably won’t be that same kind of go-to collection for anybody other than his biggest supporters and those few electro DJs who find their own place for its edgier moments. For those that let Flashmob stay on the turntable from start to finish, it will undoubtedly be a strong and justifying testament to why Arbez is one of dance’s most unique – and influential – producers.

by Michael Merline

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