Never tell John Talabot his music's cozy. In a recent interview with Juno Plus, the Barcelona-based producer expressed confusion over many of the labels applied to the music that has made him such a presence in electronic music over the last few years—"tropical" being the most obvious. He insists that he always thought of his productions as kind of shadowy. It's an interesting objection because you can hear what he's saying: There's always been a sly melancholy, a kind of sonic withdrawal and itchy discomfort, to Talabot's material that belies the shimmer at the surface.
Regardless of how you view these timbres though—and, clearly, one man's beachbum anthem is another's depressive tearbait—Talabot's been omnipresent in sets, mixes and compilations for about three years now. Across well-caned favorites like "Sunshine," "Matilda's Dream" and "Families" on labels like Permanent Vacation, Young Turks and Spain's Hivern Discs, Talabot's established his own brand of sandy haired electronica that owes as much to the jumpy Balearic strains of fellow Spaniards like Delorean and Hamburg microscopic deep house as they do to the melodic swellings of early to mid-00 heavies like Kompakt and Get Physical.
Marked by his keen sense of songcraft, Talabot's tunes are just as good (if not better) for country day strolls or evening reading than peak night hedonism. And with his debut album, fIN, finally arriving on Permanent Vacation, it's obvious from the outset that he's constructed a fifty-odd minute piece of music as cohesive and narrative-oriented as some of the best electronic full-lengths of the last few years. There are stepbacks and detours—the ambient whirl of "H.O.R.S.E." and the garbled dystopic blur of "Last Land"—that lend moments of sonic reprieve against the album's heartiest tracks. Fellow Spaniard and recent Permanent Vacation standout Pional turns up on the sultry vocal-bent house of "Destiny," with its brief lapses into bell-laced ambience that almost resemble Pantha du Prince, while "Depak Ine" opens with brief night calls—birds, frogs, all manner of cries unseen—before slipping into an eclipse of pitch-shifted vocal blurs and fuzzy synth blurts (surely one of the songs Talabot had in mind when referring to the album's blacker hues).
"Oro Y Sangre," meanwhile, resembles the heat-haze electronica of Border Community, as sun-toughened synths blare around the track's spellbound inner melody, and "Journeys" features Delorean's Ekhi Lopetegui in a warbling bit of after-party chillout that could easily have emerged from the Subiza sessions. Elsewhere, Talabot tries his hand at the spin-dizzy loops and vocal shards of the Field or Newworldaquarium on "El Oeste" and the stormy funk of the excellent "Missing You," but the efforts sidestep second-handedness with Talabot's always intricate sense of texture and depth. The samples are used almost as diversions for Talabot to craft little sonic whirlpools beneath and around them.
As the album closes with Pional returning for "So Will Be Now"—circles of the Temptations' "Just My Imagination" echoing in symphony as a base for one of the album's most spacious and elegant deep house gems—it's clear that Talabot picked the right title in fIN. Spanish for "the end," Talabot's said in interviews that he chose it when he was happy with the year of work he'd put in and wanted to put a concrete close to the process. The man should trust his instincts; it may be only early February, but fIN is without a doubt an early contender for electronic album of the year.
Buy John Talabot - fIN at
Tracklist: John Talabot - fIN 01. Depak Ine
02. Destiny feat. Pional
03. El Oeste
04. Oro y Sangre
05. Journeys feat. Ekhi
06. Missing You
07. Last Land
09. When The Past Was Present
11. So Will Be Now... feat. Pional
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