Review: John Talabot – fIN

JOHN TALABOT
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B+ | 02.14.12 | Young Turks | MP3 | CD | VINYL

Does the name John Talabot mean anything to you? Sounds like an extra in Elizabeth I, or someone who runs the local hardware store, doesn’t he? You might know Talabot from the Young Turks roster, or his warm, melodic remix of the xx’s “Shelter,” or his EP Families, featuring the ethereally voiced Glasser. But what you should know that the anonymous Talabot is a name worth noting. Now. 

The Catalan producer hails from a sound stable saddled with the early moniker ‘Balearic’, named for the collaborations conjured up between he and his Basque country brethren – check out his shimmering remix of Delorean’s “Sunshine,” and his mate from Madrid, Pional’s many vocals on Fin. His oozy, woozy take on ambient house evokes the sun sinking below Barcelona’s rooftops, so effortlessly captured in his EP Families - yet save for the song titles, somewhat surprisingly there’s no Spanish on the album.

But for all the deliciousness and delicacy, the record is interlaced with moments of darkness – something Talabot is determined to cling to. ‘Why am I always tagged as house, or tropical or happy music when I’m making dark tracks? ’, he said in this interview. ‘I don’t understand’.

Perhaps that’s why opening track “Depak Ine” begins in the way that it does, with a haunting jungle-like atmosphere where the skittering hoots and hollers of unseen wild beasts are offset by a pounding rhythmic drumbeat. This seven minute extravaganza fully immerses the listener into the record as layer upon layer is gently spliced together, until all the slivers make up a complex, melodic slice of sound. It’s an method that’s equally well wielded on album closer “So Will Be Now,” that cuts samples of Pional’s vocal with a groovy, bouncy bass and tight finger-clicks.

Better at layering than any fashion editor, is Talabot. In the same Red Bull interview, Talabot admits he likes to sample – ‘it’s something more creative’, and this is exemplified on “Last Land.” There are sounds you recognize and yet can’t place – it’ll make you gurn in that desperation to identify it – rounded off by a sequence that recalls Arabian Nights, all twinkly bells and twisted synths.

The record flickers in and out of the shadows; hesitantly so on “Destiny,” featuring, once again, Pional’s vocal. It’s a little haunting, stripped back at first to create a soulful vibe that brightens and burrows into rythmic humming into a dazed delight. And It’s incredibly enjoyable.

But it’s fun, trying to pinpoint the dark among the light, like a game of cat and mouse. You’re never entirely sure where a record might take you. Although on “Oro y Sangre,”  it’s clear from the otherworldly, M83-esque screams and jittery synths which direction Talabot is headed in. “El Oeste” has eerie undercurrents that strain against the rhythmic flow of the music, while “H.O.R.S.E” trots along like a herd under the still of night.

Talabot might run Hivern Records – that’s winter in Catalan – but really, fIN reeks of warmer days. You’ll find brighter climes on “From Past to Present,” a stand-out track.  It’s a time machine straight to summer, with sundappled synths not a million miles away from Aeroplane’s chilled remix of Friendly Fires’ “Paris.” And “Missing You” combines clunky, chubby euro beats with hollering vocals that slip and slap along.

If it’s ambient house you’re looking for, Talabot is a master. “Journeys,” featuring the vocal of Delorean’s Ekji begins with a swooshing underwater vibe – there’s fractured swells that seep languidly into your ears, like geckos catching the last strands of sun on cobbled backstreets. “Estiu” jumps in with a punchy, crunchy beat that ebbs into the soundtrack of daydreams.

It might be February now, but bring little warmth into your ears with the help of Talabot and his stunning debut.

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