Best New Music: “Hyperion” by Gesaffelstein

If there is something that no longer surprises me is to acknowledge how many talented artists periodically emerge from within the French electronic scene. Even if we consider only the last twentyfive years, we can mention a remarkable number of influential figures such as Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoît Dunckel (Air),  Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter (Daft Punk), Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay (Justice), Nicolas Fromageau e Anthony Gonzalez (M83), Ludovic Navarre (St. Germain), Martin Picandet (Martin Solveig), and Benoit Carré (Skygge). These artists have developed their own peculiar styles and techniques, but all of them share the same capacity to combine originality of approach with style and, of course, enjoyability.

One of the figures that in the recent times has gained an increased attention as both producer and songwriter is Mike Lévy, an artist who is best known with his stage name of Gesaffelstein. Levy has already accredited himself as one of the most intriguing figures of contemporary electronic music, well beyond France, as witnessed by the fact that in the time-span of just a few years he has already accumulated a considerable number of collaborations with artists of the caliber of Pharrell Williams, Kanye West and The Weeknd.

French electronic producer and songwritre Mike Lévy, best known as Gesaffelstein, a made-up word meant as a reference to both the concept of “Gesamtkunstwerk” (total work of art) and Albert Einstein.
The first releases from Gesaffelstein date back to 2008 but his first LP (“Aleph”) arrived in 2013. So far, he has published two LPs and 9 EPs.

On March 2019, Gesaffelstein has released the album named Hyperion, which formally is the second studio LP of his discography after his 2013’s debut called Aleph. As said, during this time Lévy certainly had the opportunity to confront himself with many different artists and experiences and, in fact, the new album comes out in a moment in which the artist has undoubtedly gained greater popularity and awarenes. And what we hear from his newest release is absolutely impressive.

“Hyperion” is the second studio album by Gesaffelstein, released on 8 March 2019. The album is produced by Columbia Records and it includes collaborations with The Weeknd, Pharrell Williams, Haim, The Hacker and Electric Youth.

There are really many things that I appreciated in Hyperion. The first one is the solid research that the artist has done on the sonic aspect of his music. That’s particularly evident in the instrumental tracks of the album, where we can enjoy beautiful but also very particular ranges of sounds. As a matter of fact, the possibility of customizing and shaping both sounds and atmospheres is really one of the peculiarities of electronic music, something that should be sought and exercised by every artist. Conversely, many modern artists seem to be happy to just rely on those palettes of sounds that have already been defined and affirmed by others, making their albums to be often indistinguishable.

Another thing that I liked is the temper, the character of this music. For most of the tracks Hyperion basically offers a fairly accessible and synth-based version of techno music. Below the surface, however, there is always a dark and relatively haunting feeling that you get from the music. It’s like a fil-rouge that characterizes the album: this is more evident in the most synth-wave oriented songs like Reset and Ever Now but, in different measures, it’s present almost everywhere.

Last, but not least, we can really enjoy a lot of different ideas in the LP. The ten tracks Hyperion of are basically divided into two main categories: a group of structured “songs”, which typically see the presence of a vocalist, and another group of instrumental pieces, typically shorter and more immediate, which develop around a single musical element and elaborate on it both rhythmically and musically.

Gesaffelstein’s new record is definitely one of the best electronic albums we could enjoy so far in 2019, My rating for the LP is 8/10 and there are really many good songs that I can recommend, including Blast Off, Reset, Vortex and the long. poignant and exciting instrumental track Humanity Gone, which closes the record.

Hyperion is available for streaming on Spotify and it’s now featured also in The ELECTRONIC MUSIC Radar, the growing playlist which contains a selection of the best electronic songs that have been released in 2019.

Best New Music: “Wake Up The Coma” by Front Line Assembly

Bill Leeb (Vocals, Keyboards) and Rhys Fulber (Keyboards, Programming, Mixing) are the two masterminds of Front Line Assembly, the Canadian electro-industrial project founded in 1986.

I’m proud to be a long-term fan of Front Line Assembly. They have and will always have a special place in my musical heart. With equal parts of curiosity and devotion, I followed them experimenting with the entire spectrum of electro-industrial music, both as FLA and through their numerous side-projects. Therefore, I’ve always been prepared to expect the unexpected on every new album. Of course, when I discovered that one of the singles which anticipated their brand new LP Wake Up the Coma was a cover of Falco’s Rock Me Amadeus, I thought for a while that this time they had really “jumped the shark”. In reality, however, once I had the chance to hear the whole record, my concerns were quickly dissolved.

“Wake Up The Coma” is the eighteenth studio LP from Front Line Assembly. The album was released on February 8, 2019.
Front Line Assembly (Feat. Jimmy Urine) – “Rock Me Amadeus”

First of all, it’s important to say that in this new iteration the band’s style has become purely electronic. All the distorted guitars and the heavy riffs that did justify for some time the presence of a guitarist as a permanent member of their live gigs have now disappeared. Similarly, we have neither the deep and meditative atmospheric sections of the Civilization phase (which I really loved, to be honest). What do we have then in Wake Up The Coma? It’s simple: compact and thick electro-industrial with strong bass loops, danceable rhythms, flashes of synths, and vocals. The overall style oscillates between relatively catchy moments (like the opening song Eye on You or Structures), and heavier, slower and gloomy tracks. The first kind of songs, in my opinion, is definitely the best of the record.

May this be considered as a return to the origins? Not really, principally because we don’t have today the complexity and the rawness of their early works. Evidently, going through the most accessible regions of electronic music has left a tangible mark in their music. We’re in a sort of intermediate region: their sound is certainly easier to assimilate when compared with their first albums, but at the same time it’s far from the melodic and ambient-like tunes we enjoyed in more recent times.

Front Line Assembly (feat. Robert Görl) – “Eye on You”·

For longtime fans of the band, Wake up the Coma gives the possibility to appreciate the stylistic synthesis of many different moments that have been experienced by Front Line Assembly in their long career. Maybe there is an excess of simple and linear beat sequences, which in some cases become a basic and dancefloor kind of four quarters, but in the end, the songs are never too mundane or flat. On the other hand, however, some of the new songs don’t show the freshness, the creativity and to some extent the “urgency” of their best works. That said, my overall judgment on “Wake up the Coma” is definitely positive, even if the LP is not that absolute masterpiece that I was dreaming of. If I had to give a rating, I would say 8/10, even if I want to take the opportunity to revise it in a couple of months, once I will be more familiar with those few tracks that today don’t allow me to go to higher values.

In the context of their entire discography, Wake Up the Coma is for sure another good entry in the large catalogue of albums released by Front Line Assembly. In particular, it looks like the band has reached another stable state of their continuous evolution. The result is an album with a remarkable number of potential hits like we didn’t have from them for many years.

Favourite songs: Mesmerized, Albeit, Living a Lie, Eye on You and Structures. It’s easy to see that these are among the more “danceable” songs of the LP.

Wake Up The Coma is available on Bandcamp and it can be streamed also from Spotify.