Wednesday, May 30, 2012

fin - John Talabot


John Talabot
Permanent Vacation Records.

SCQ Rating: 80%

Blame it on a hyperbole-dependent press or my own winter-sick reluctance but I wasn’t overly keen on hearing a record that evokes the “kind of bliss associated with dancing on Mediterranean beaches at the height of summer” (The Guardian). At least not during a Canadian February. John Talabot’s fin, a full-length that had been anticipated in some circles – and not just Mediterranean ones – for nearly four years, didn’t need patience in my case so much as adrenaline, which aligned when fin became my album-of-choice while running the local gym’s track.

Tempo, the lead criteria by which I’d first chosen the disc, gave Talabot all of the fuel he needed to shake my slight expectations. Although still certainly a dance record full of rhythm and slick dynamics, fin graduates to the realm of capital-A Album status on the heels of its opening trifecta alone. The dense jungle that inhabits “Depak Ine”, the tropics-inflected groove of “Destiny” and an ambient head-spin known as “El Oeste” provide more than enough flexibility to ensure that fin becomes notorious for far greater accomplishments than a heavy BPM index. Through pop-leaning vocal tracks like “Journeys”, in which contributor Ekhi calls to mind Panda Bear’s role on Pantha du Prince’s Black Noise, and instrumental dance cuts like “H.O.R.S.E.”, Talabot’s meticulous sound-environment tends to inform the beat (instead of the other way around).

Given that a few of these songs were available as singles in advance of the full-length, it’s expected that some tracks give up their mystique easier than others. “Last Land” hits the nerve of its main hook early and rides it longer than necessary, whereas the compacted “Estiu” could’ve thrived off of its slippery bass figure for a few minutes more. That said, any learning curve detectable on fin feels theoretical at best, since each track operates facets of the same exotic and nocturnal mood, thereby making it easy to overlook a passable dance track in favour of sprinting through Talabot’s whole set. If “So Will Be Now…”, the concluding collaboration with Pional that challenges every other dance track this year, can be heard as the hands-in-the-air finish line, fin represents the shadowy, sensual journey that got us there.

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