Some records are elusive, and that elusiveness manifests itself in different ways. Some of these records don’t seem special at first blush, then when you check your Last.fm, you’re almost incredulous to find them near the top. Others, like John Talabot’s excellent debut record ƒin, are enjoyable from the onset, but the why of that enjoyment is a little harder to discern. I’ve had this record on repeat for awhile, and I think I’m only just now beginning to find the shape of those reasons.
But that’s not to say there isn’t an immediacy to Talabot’s debut record. Just try to keep yourself from locking into a groove during fantastic early tracks “Oro y Sangre” and opener “Depak Ine.” Their rhythms channel something primal, something animal. Both tracks are sans vocals, and when their sounds fill a room, there are dueling tendencies to let something either transcendentally meditative or throbbing and ritualistic occur. They’re pure amygdala, registering as movement and reaction before the reasoned objectivity of the cerebellum.
But, as it’s a nuanced and insanely well crafted piece of electronic music, fin has cerebral components, too. The way sounds and tones travel through the stereo field, the way phasing effects attack and decay, the way themes disappear into a mire and then explode in technicolor (like the fantastic string-laden coda of “Last Land”), all of these illustrate Talabot’s gifts for bringing a keen and dedicated ear to his constructions in service of the gut-check intensity of his rhythms.
fin pays homage to a number of different musical styles swirling about and seeing themselves fall into fashion over the past few years. There’s the neon house of Talabot’s contemporaries in Delorean. There’s the airy balaeric music that cropped up in Northern Europe in middle of last decade. There’s even chillwave and, in early tunes like “Oro” and “Depak,” maybe a bit of witch house. But they coalesce into a sound that deserves its own word, like Talabotian or something. Even the remixes that Talabot built his reputation on come from this miniature melting pot of cool influences. Influences that, while decipherable, never overpower the things that make fin, uh, Talabotian.
Many of the reviews that came out regarding fin pointed to it as a sunny record, one likely to lift spirits and cause dance floor commotions. But listening through it for the past few months, I have to say that this is one assertion that seems to make the least sense. Far from light-hearted, fin burns with intensity of a bonfire in the middle of a vast expanse of woods. You may be able to hear the waves lapping at the shore, and you may even be able to see the colors of the sun rising or setting on the distant horizon, but the fire burns slowly, insistently, and mostly in the dark, only casting abstract shadows with precision edges. fin creates a passionate kind of poetry not only in its music but also in its listeners. It makes you want to think and move at the same time, a claim only a few records can make.