Artaban - Flow

7 songs
32:03 minutes
***** ****
Chez Kito Kat


Five years can be a long time between releases, especially in the case of a band that had only just released its debut in 2008. Artaban made more than just a passable impression with their debut Landscapes, which was a little too long for an EP yet a little too short for a longplayer.

The band, consisting of the two brothers Charles (laptop, synthesizers) and Max (bass, drums), kept busy touring and remixing other artists, so that even the long interval between albums didn’t let them slip into oblivion. If you had expected though a longer record after such a long wait, you are sadly mistaken. The sophomore effort Flow contains once again only seven tracks and is only slightly longer than its predecessor.

But don’t be afraid, because there are still some surprises left. First and foremost, the duo has grown to become a trio, with additional member Aurélie on Rhodes piano, flute and keyboard. It’s especially his former instrument which gives Flow a much more pronounced warm, analogue sound. The opener Dust Remover still keeps in line with what we have come to expect from Artaban: electronic soundscapes meet organic rhythms to result in a beautiful hybrid between machine and man-made music. The following Appaskop has also been released as a video clip, and goes a little further than what came before. The vocal effect - and I am not sure if it’s processed synth sounds or heavily effects driven quasi-vocals - give the song more melody than what the band did in the past. Also the warm electric piano sounds add a certain something that Artaban lacked before. The biggest surprise comes with Jeans en cuir, where the erstwhile instrumental band uses vocals. I do not know if one of the musicians is in charge of them, or if they hired outside services, but one thing’s for sure: the subdued vocals totally fit the song. Moreover it struck me that there are quite some parallels between vocal Artaban and later Notwist. The middle track Lights is a strange proto disco track, without that genre’s glamour, but with a wonderfully meandering arpeggio synth line and later some balmy flute parts. If this isn’t the dark days of disco, I don’t know what else is! Natt jakt has a Scandinavian sounding title, and maybe that’s why it’s hardly surprising - and yet, it still is! - that Artaban come very close to the music of Jaga Jazzist. The drumming is subtly jazzy, the Rhodes piano has a very dominant role, and it’s just a shame that this is the shortest track on the record, ending already before four minutes are over. Dark Shapes is yet another vocal track, maybe not as appealing and catchy than the previous one, but still a strong indication that Artaban could do with more such tracks in the future. The album ends with the groovier Pasta Calibro which once again moves somewhat back to the band’s early days, and without being weak, I have to admit that I prefer the middle part of Flow.

I can honestly admit that I didn’t expect wonders from the new Artaban record, and therefore it feels so much better to have been taught better. The band really used the many years since the debut to work on their songwriting and broaden their horizons, leaving us with a nearly perfect statement that catapults these guys to the very top of the local music scene. Often compared to bands like Röyksopp and Boards Of Canada, and having played already with the likes of Modeselektor, Apparat, Sébastien Tellier and M83, Artaban don’t have to hide behind any of them. In my opinion they even sound fresher than many of those established artists. If you like song oriented electro music with an analogue touch, you have a multitude of ways to purchase Flow: digital download is the cheapest, the digipak is also very affordable, and if you want something more luxurious, you can grab the slightly more pricey double vinyl record which additionally comes with the songs from the debut.

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