Seven years later after his first long player, Kiko is now back in album mode. His recent singles have been recorded most notably (and tellingly) for Confused Recordings and Datapunk, an indication of a subtle yet definite shift in sound and of his overall “Germanization.” In other words, the Kiko of 2008, with evident influences from Oliver Huntemann and Anthony Rother, is so different from the producer of previous euphoric singles such as ‘Italomatic’ and ‘Monique’ he might as well be someone else altogether.
Bar the inclusion of three inconsequential 120-second snippets, Slave of My Mind is made of nine brooding techno cuts with a knack for self-aggrandizing poses à la Vitalic (albeit with less rushed intensity: think ‘Poney Part Two’ more than ‘La Roc 01’, if you like). But mostly, it is following the trend of emulating Stephan Bodzin’s take on neo-trance (itself a continental update of the pastoral progressive sound designed in the UK by James Holden and the Border Community posse) recently adopted by fellow southern France producers such as Gino’s, Snake, or Oxia (only The Hacker seems to be resisting this tendency by sticking to his colder Detroit techno roots: see the aptly-titled ‘White Techno Funk’ for proof).
This generic uniformity is enhanced by the fact a lot of Hot Banana’s usual suspects and the Grenoble electro mafia are involved with the album in a way or the other, either sharing production credits (Stéphane Deschezeaux aka Gino’s on the title track) or lending their overtly dramatic voices such as Benoit Bollini on ‘Slave of My Mind’ or Naommon on ‘World End Rock Up’, both songs reminiscent, weirdly enough, of JD Davis’s singing on David Guetta’s ‘The World is Mine’. On these tracks, Kiko walks the fine line between rousing underground anthems and bona fide commercially sound hits, which is probably not what he was aiming for initially. Nonetheless, both moments are quite effective precisely because they’re shamelessly formulaic. That said, you’d be hard-pressed to distinguish a track such as ‘Preludia’ from Oxia’s ‘Domino’ or any recent Gino’s & Snake remixes.
What this album gains in studio professionalism, then, it lacks in overall originality. After playing such a pivotal role on the French techno scene over the past ten years, you’d expect Kiko to avoid falling into generic traps set by others and lose his own sense of self. In the end, Slave of My Mind leaves you wondering who are the masters and who is the real slave.