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Posted on June 12th, 2015 (10:00 am) by Aaron Tremper

Promoted as an "African Coldwave" release, French producer Débruit’s Outside The Line attempts to pull a Peter Gabriel in merging African tribal percussion with 80’s synthpop. While Gabriel shaped the iconic sound of 1986’s So by meshing the talking drums and congas of indigenous Western African music with the high-tech capabilities of his adored Fairlight CMI, Débruit’s 2015 release sounds even more archaic than the now-outdated technologies of Gabriel’s critically acclaimed masterpiece.

Toeing in line with other synthwave artists such as Mitch Murder, Miami Nights 1984, and Com Truise, Débruit infuses retro analog synthesizers of Gabriel’s heyday into a backdrop of contemporary electronic music rhythms. Outside The Line, however, lacks the sharp production of Murder’s Current Events and complex synth layering of Truise’s In Decay. Paired with the album’s touted “asymmetrical” tendencies, it attempts to play off awkward rhythms and cheap-sounding timbres as tasteful, minimalist nostalgia.

The album begins with “Drift,” an aptly-titled spoken word intro that features Débruit’s vocoded voice reciting cheesy rhyming stanzas over automated recordings of ocean waves. The ten remaining tracks include the likes of “Separated Together,” an odd pairing of guitar noodling and what sounds like tribal funeral keening, and the reed-horn featuring “Desert Dream.” Débruit strives for innovation in his unusual combination of ethnic instruments and retro synths, but the de-contextualized additions only make for a jarring listen; the synthesizers overpower most of the acoustic instruments, especially on the onomatopoeic “Dun Dun.” Bass lines are aimless, structures abandoned, tracks unevenly mixed—the album blunders on the most fundamental components of electronic music! Tied together with the sparse material, most of the songs sound like rough demos and unfinished project scraps.

Envisioned as the soundtrack for a utopia in which “West Africa cohabits with '80s New York,” Outside The Line focuses more on selling the conglomeration of styles rather than executing it. Debruit’s latest LP is a sloppy collection of self-proclaimed avant-gardism that doesn’t live up to its precociousness. Artists like Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush were trailblazers in using the studio as an instrument in itself, a legacy that gained momentum after the psychedelic experimentalism of The Beatles’ Revolver. Today's electronic artists, indebted to such achievements and privileged to cutting edge technology, are naturally expected to exceed their standards. Débruit’s latest record, however, is far more of a regression than true artistic innovation.

Track List:

  1. Drift
  2. Separated Together
  3. Stand Up
  4. Shock
  5. Percute
  6. Transverse
  7. Desert Dream
  8. Dun Dun
  9. MZB
  10. Synthetic Dust
  11. Am Am
Débruit - Outside The Line
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

35 / 100
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