An excellent showcase for electronic musician Yuksek's varied production.
French producer and DJ Yuksek (Pierre-Alexandre Busson) followed up the release of numerous singles with his first album Away from the Sea in 2009. The album featured a couple of those singles, including "Tonight" and "Extraball", and gave fans a proper invitation to his robotic disco. Fast-forward a couple of years and Yuksek's second album Living on the Edge of Time was released in the summer of 2011 outside the US. Mostly positive reviews resulted and people then probably began to wonder where the US release was. Well, for those patiently waiting, it's finally here. But instead of a fitting release on vinyl, the label decided to only release it as a download. This may make it harder for those not already in the know to discover the album, but it's much easier to select the tracks piecemeal.
Living on the Edge of Time's first track, “Always on the Run”, immediately gets the listener into the groove with its finger snaps and piano strokes that sound like Arcade Fire's “We Used to Wait” moved up the scale. Yuksek's processed voice soon joins in the rhythm and he's quickly proclaiming “We'll be on our own / always on the run”.
Reading through the track list, you will find Yuksek plays it straight for the most part -- often the title of the song is included somewhere in the lyrics. A careful listener might find he takes some liberties, like on “You Should Talk”, where Yuksek's voice is far more subdued than in the majority of the songs. However, even if the various tempo changes dilute the dancing, the album's scope is clearly to highlight Yuksek's distinguished production skills and to create a non-stop dance party.
At first “Off the Wall” seems like the album's first chance for a small breather, with a lighter, summery pop electronic sound paired with acoustic guitar riffs, but it becomes quite infectious. It continues into “On a Train”, another driving dance number, which quickly gets inside your head and sets you spinning. “Fireworks” builds up a bit slower with its percussion sounding weighted down but it ends up being more of a countdown that launches you into an intergalactic instrumental. It becomes the song of a solitary space journey witnessing stars flare up beside you. Such singular visions in Yuksek's production earn the tracks regular rotation.
Despite being built upon a majority of visionary tracks, Living on the Edge of Time has a couple that pale in comparison. The second track, "White Keys", starts off promising, squiggling over handclaps before Yuksek's layered voice enters. It continues with a children's chorus joining in but takes a turn for the worse and becomes aggravating as Yuksek says, “This is not the song we sing out loud”, over a rising scale. This is only a small part of the song, and despite the great instrumental production, the vocal's prominence sets me off. Further in, Yuksek's initial vocal on the track “Say a Word” is irritating right off the bat but again, the music production is top notch. The vocal refrain eventually melds into a hammering climax, but it's not a payoff worth waiting for.
The big payoff of the album comes just past the middle. “The Edge” is the album title's inspiration and an epic in and of itself. Its instrumental jaunt stretches out the piece to nearly six minutes long. At the end Yuksek's vocals slowly return, as if back from a journey that they were reluctant to leave.
Yuksek's album has characteristics that make it more mainstream than a typical electronic production. Its got a bit of indie-pop charm that makes it worth picking up -- in a purely digital form unless you import it.