Vitalic returns with the first episode of his new ‘mutant-disco’ project, ‘DISSIDÆNCE’
Electroclash as a genre was really born from the intersection of French touch and italo house, borrowing the scuzzy allure of underground EBM to formulate its distinctly and devilishly stylish hedonism. It is a sound underscored by decadence, a sort of indulgent maximalism all about seedy glamour that transgresses the boundaries of class and sex in the name of a good time. Somehow synonymous with the genre is French maestro Vitalic, yet honestly Vitalic’s true electroclash moments have been peppered throughout his otherwise diverse discography, popping up in 2009 with Poison Lips then in 2017 with the deviously garish Sweet Cigarette. Otherwise he’s completely chameleonic. A sonic shapeshifter, he dabbles across genres and styles, pulling from whatever he may find interesting and synthesising them toward a sonic identity immediately distinct from the retro-debauchery of Miss Kittin or Fischerspooner. On 2012’s Rave Age, it was brash 2010’s EDM with hoover synths and chaotic beat drops while on Voyager, it was the nostalgia of retro disco and electro-funk. His inherent genre fluidity and the sort of punk attitude with which he executes his vision is probably what ties Vitalic most to electroclash; he fits the description not so much in sound, but in theory. It’s also probably why no one found the description of his latest project, DISSIDÆNCE, at all surprising when he promised “electro-mutant disco” fused with techno and acid-house. Divided into two “episodes”, DISSIDÆNCE is a return to form of sorts for the producer, a reintroduction of that punk electroclash spirit into music that is, in his own words, “aggressive but still sexy.”
Episode 1, released on Vitalic’s own Clivage imprint, begins the journey into the world of DISSIDÆNCE with eight tracks that include a few EBM-cum-techno monsters destined to drive hordes of rolling club kids insane. Recent single Haute Definition opens the album with an electro-disco pulse. It’s all shiny, tinny synths, grating vocoder samples and a breakdown with a melody that’s part Waiting For The Stars, part Poison Lips. From here, things take a full deep dive into the catacombs. Rave Against The System is the most techno-informed he has ever sounded with a steady, sledgehammer 4/4 beat and scrambled machine babble that mutates into buzzing acid-rave with squelching synths and a chugging four on the floor. Yet, while informed by the brutalist austerity of hard techno and the mechanic pound of basement EBM, this first act maintains typical Vitalic maximalism that goes for the jugular at all times. The tracks are detailed, fine tuned and full of texture, designed to be encapsulating and gargantuan even at its quietest moments. The introduction to Lost Time, for instance, features three looped chords that are modulated and distorted to create moments of dynamic detail. They evolve into rapturous, crunched out bass beats as endless layers of distorted and indistinct sounds wash over each other in a way that echoes the slippery oscillation of time itself.
Up until this point, DISSIDÆNCE Episode 1 is a thunderously propulsive experience, featuring some of the hardest going music Vitalic has ever created. Which is why it’s almost frustrating when he lapses back into familiar territory at the halfway mark. Danse avec moi is a synth-driven disco cut that could be mistaken for Voyager leftovers, followed by Cosmic Renegade which, despite being the album’s longest track, doesn’t really go anywhere particularly interesting. It’s not that these tracks aren’t brilliantly crafted. It’s rather that after the onslaught of the album’s first half, they risk sounding a touch trite; too easily relocatable to other parts of Vitalic’s discography to carry the distinct energy set up by the beginning to the end. Episode 1’s first two singles happen to be some of the album’s weakest moments. The chopped vocal progression of 14 AM feels remarkably less cathartic following Cosmic Renegade, while the campy electro-macabre of Carbonized makes less sense than before with its position as Episode 1’s closing track.
Part of what makes electroclash so decadent is its louche sensibilities, teetering on camp but somehow maintaining an aloof air of the fashionable. The same can be said of Vitalic’s work, and while DISSIDÆNCE Episode 1 is not a perfect album, it’s necessary to consider that it is only half of the whole. Vitalic himself has mentioned that Episode 2 will be significantly ‘harder’ than Episode 1. Considering this, perhaps Episode 1 closes at the start of DISSIDÆNCE’s next phase. If Episode 1 runs the gamut of Vitalic’s past selves and gives us some mouthwatering clues into his future self, then hopes for Episode 2 ride on a complete embrace of that punk-rock, “mutant-disco” electroclash energy he seems to have rediscovered.