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Kavinsky’s debut has a need for speed

Focus Editor

Published: Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Updated: Friday, August 23, 2013 17:08


Fans of the 2011 Ryan Gosling cult hit “Drive” surely remember the film’s opening sequence, with the cast’s names splashed across the seedier sides of the Los Angeles night skyline as French house artist Kavinsky’s “Nightcall” blasted on the soundtrack. The film would lose a lot of its power if it wasn’t for “Nightcall,” a forceful, bombastic electronica track with 80s-retro synth stings and electro-pop roots that energizes the opening sequence with a nostalgia aura.

Kavinsky’s pedal-to-the-metal mentality carries over to his debut album, “OutRun,” which itself name-drops Sega’s famed racing series. For fans of electronica, it’s reminiscent of any and all cheesy 80s soundtracks, but it harnesses the strengths of the genre to become one of this year’s early stand-out albums. Its nonstop speed and car-chase themes (the first and last tracks imply the record’s about a kid in 1986 who becomes fused with his car) make it an excellent choice for any spring break road trips as well.

Kavinsky has worked with Daft Punk and Justice in the past, and “OutRun” more than resembles tracks from both artists; of course, sounding like two of the best dance outfits ever isn’t exactly a bad thing. Many tracks feature screaming guitars. With killer riffs that tear through the beat’s moody shuffle, “Blizzard,” which sounds like a brother to Daft Punk’s “Aerodynamic,” is an early standout.

Tracks do progress much like the soundtrack to a 80s action movie, a unique strength of the album; there’s no direct natural progression, but they thematically click. The bright, action-filled songs like “Blizzard” and “ProtoVision” bleed into the heavy downbeats of “Odd Look” and “Rampage,” then the sleepy rap of “Suburbia.”

“Testarossa Autodrive” has a frantic synth rhythm reminiscent of “Axel F,” the “Beverly Hills Cop” theme song, with twice the speed and a much more serious tone. It’s one of the four tracks on “OutRun that have been released.

“Nightcall” makes another appearance on the album, more than a year after it buoyed Gosling’s thriller and almost three years since its initial single release. Age has treated “Nightcall” well; it’s still a standout track. The song’s repeating synth melody combined with sluggish drums, lonely lyrics, heroic thematic stings and a powerful chorus whose success rests on the shoulders of Lovefoxx, the vocalist for Brazilian rock band CSS, make it four minutes of moody euphoria.

The thematic tale continues over the next five tracks. A full cinematic range of emotion is present from “Deadcruiser” to the hard-rocking and autotuned “First Blood,” which feels like the buildup to the climax of “Roadgame” and the conclusion of “Endless,” which continues and concludes the album’s “storyline” with a strange yet compelling narrative full of surprising drama. 

“OutRun” is a fantastic debut LP for any artist and a great slice of electronica, especially if listeners can tune into its storyline. Much like “Drive” and PC game “Hotline: Miami,” it expertly captures a vibe not unlike the most stylish “Miami Vice” episode never made. At the very least, it’ll more than hold over anyone waiting for Daft Punk to hurry it up already and release their fourth studio album.

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