Release date: March 8, 2019
By: Peter Marchione
Musical genres are often hard to define, in particular when it comes to electronic music. Sometimes a shift of genre is simply triggered by a different wardrobe.
Gesaffelstein is the alter ego of French musician, DJ and producer Mike Lévy. The pseudo is said to be a portmanteau of Gesamtkunstwerk and Einstein and when I first got in contact with his work I would never even consider him being anything else than German. Around 2010 his cover artworks were very Berlin and gothic and the music was dark, hard-hitting techno with obvious references to some Release artists.
The first years he released several EP:s and remixes and it wasn’t until 2013 a debut album was presented: “Aleph”, including the neo-EBM-smash “Pursuit”, like a French take on DAF. Französisch-Amerikanische Freundschaft sounds pretty cool, doesn’t it?
The image of Gesaffelstein has always been DJ-oriented, with Lévy’s appearance more reminiscent of a fashion designer than an Ebbhead. This may be the reason his music is more often labeled techno than industrial or EBM.
On “Hyperion” Gesaffelstein has transformed himself from a techno persona into a club pop hybrid, delivering more actual songs rather than track based tunes. The title track, and also album opener, give a credible Kraftwerk pose. Many of the tracks are of the classical electronica sphere but at the same time they are elegantly interrupted by clever pop twists, featuring surprising, famous guest artists.
“Lost in the Fire” features the voice of The Weeknd, a presence that immediately turns the strict electronic backdrop into a very human, and urban, expo. In total, four out of ten tracks feature guest musicians. The second one is “Blast Off”, where Pharrell Williams lays his trademark voice to the mix. On “So Bad” the vocal part is managed by the sister Californian sister trio HAIM and on “Forever” both The Hacker and Electic Youth contribute. This track is probably the most synthpop one on the album, giving me the same chills as “A Real Hero”; The College track on the official soundtrack for the film “Drive” – also featuring Electric Youth.
With 40 % of the tunes vocal orientated one seems to enter a pop mindset that indirectly puts the instrumental tracks in the background, especially when listening to the album from start to finnish. That’s a pity since many of the vox-less creations are, as expected, well produced and at times more refined than the four obvious vocal-driven pop hits. For a more fair experience; try playing the instrumental parts separately a few times.
To sum things up; this is a nice collection of songs, unfortunately, the gap between the more direct vox tunes and the mature electronica instrumentals may appear a bit too big.