“The year was 1986” (or did I just hear “1980-sex”?). So begins Outrun, the new LP by French electronica composer Vincent Belorgey, aka Kavinsky, marking yet another return to his beloved running concept — you know, that whole thing of when a guy meets a car, then dies, and returns to Earth as a high-speed-specter. Belorgey, who’s been releasing music as Kavinsky since 2005’s Teddy Boy, most recently ascended to the limelight after being featured in 2011’s mega-cult indie film, Drive. Talk about a match made in hipster heaven. “Nightcall” (appearing in both Drive and Outrun), was and remains ample evidence of the man’s filmic potential. Music in general is inherently tied to the visual senses; turn off the projector and the mind still colors and warps, propelling us forward into some mysterious world of our own creation.
In that sense Outrun is exactly what we’ve come to expect from a Kavinsky record. From the perfectly composed nighttime-in-’80s-Miami album cover, to the fashionable, retro-gamer tunes — of which two seem awfully familiar (because they are) — it’s enough repetition to sense the monochrome patterns beginning to form. And yet, when an artist’s aim and execution are this true, resistance to their charms largely boils down to some kind of weird exercise in vanity. Yes, much like any great score or soundtrack, this IS music as utility, suitable for 24-hour personal companionship. Feel like taking a jog? Need to bang out some editing, final-cut-bro? Feel like hitting the open road in your mom’s Subaru? You should DEFINITELY be listening to this. Artistic merit (plenty) and niche electro-zombie genre aside, music with such daily practicality should always be held in high regard.
Taking the album title from a Sega Genesis game of the same designation, Kavinsky aims to drag us deep into his high-octane world right from the start. Appropriately goofy exposition aside (The Prelude, i.e. the tale of the “hero”), our Frenchman wastes no time in hitting the sweet spot, with the faux-metal stomp of “Blizzard” (think bizarro For Whom the Bell Tolls as conceived by retro-futurists), followed by the forceful, insistent, “Protovision”. This is prime Kavinsky here, evoking the same testosterone rush and film-noir-like spirit of his best material. Elsewhere, choice cuts abound, with the highest of high’s generally pertaining to the tracks aided by vocals (excluding of course, the dim and mood-killing rap cut, “Suburbia”). Sans the one, Kavinsky is often found pairing his furtive instrumental music with an equally enigmatic, textural vocal, and to great effect. Case in point, the eternal “Nightcall”, which is so cool, it just might end up on all of his subsequent releases. Also impressive are the resolute synth strings on “Roadgame” and the soulful Gnarls Barkley-esque “First Blood”, a tune that would be perfect for pop-radio… if radio played cool songs and it was still the ‘80s. “First Blood” is destined for film scores and open world video games.
With Outrun on the books, Kavinsky has firmly defined himself as a musician capable of forming, and then effectively nailing, an overarching concept of artistic vision. Does that concept appeal to a limited audience? Will there be any fuel left in that oft-used Testarossa? I’d say yes to both, although that remains to be seen. For now, here’s a man operating with full confidence behind the wheel, ably dispensing his distinct and hyper-stylized ideas with perfectly complimentary musical scores. Yeah, it’s safe to say Kavinsky is at one with his “driver” muse. We should just put on our Ray Bans and enjoy it.