It’s unclear which configuration of major and indie label heads decided that May was to be the month in which the music gods rained down manna upon its wandering tribes of fans, but my God, it’s becoming difficult to keep up. Even after you wipe the slate clean on Lemonade and Views, the former of which requires more than simply a few perfunctory spins, there is still so much stuff coming out right now. I can’t remember a time in recent memory when so many artists have piled on at once, many of them (looking at you James Blake, Beyonce, friggin Radiohead!) having zero regard for release schedules. And so it is the for once I find myself blessed that I managed to snag a copy of Kaytranada’s 99.9% a month ago, because otherwise it would surely be lost in the tide. It has been a terrible secret to keep, this album, because it’s really up there. The writing is impeccable and the beats are top notch. This is the sort of album where a feature with Yukimi of Little Dragon can be nestled into the final grooves of the vinyl, as if an afterthought. In actuality, it’s the best use of her voice in a downtempo dance setting since SBTRKT tapped her for the brilliant ‘Wildfire.’It’s an excellent closer a truly excellent body of work.
There was an interview with Kaytranada, who goes by Louie Celestin in his hometown of Montreal, in The FADER a while ago in which he acknowledged that he’s always been a bit on the outside as an electronic producer of colour who is gay. More critically, the author discussed Celestin’s ability to parse the best of disco, funk and house music over the last few years, splash it with a style of sparse synth production best recognised in his heroes, The Neptunes, and wholly own it. From the moment the man burst onto the scene – with a remix of Janet Jackson, no less – he set a new gold standard for how bass can be used as a melodic instrument in dance. It is the main focus of many of his best numbers, to be sure, but as notable is his ability to find the perfect sparring partner for each piece he writes. This perhaps comes from a history of re-fixing existing pop tracks, he’s well used to having to match a textural element to an established vocal timbre. In this sense, he’s copped many comparisons to Disclosure, but arguably, Celestin’s control of rhythm far outstrips his peers across the bond. His is a beat that feels like dancing, even through a speaker.
To hear this in action, look no furhter than ‘Bullets.’ It is glorious. Marvel in the way the bass hops all over a tight disco beat that could be a Quincy Jones cast-off from the Thriller era. Hi-hats drained of their reverb, snap across 808s and spacey synths, as Yukimi glides with that distinctive tone that has made her such a crossover drawcard. The reason I know Kaytranada is the real deal, though, has nothing to do with his melodies and everything to do with the rest. His is a style of continual deviation, of bass drums added, of notes displaced. His production sings louder than his singers. Only this guy can inadvertently turn the mesmerising Little Dragon into window dressing.
What a time to be alive.