John Talabot’s debut fIN on the Permanent Vacation is labeled as house, but it feels a little bigger than that. Hugely organic textures, perpetually progressions with point and counterpoint melodies stitched through like the best of them are, slightly non-standard percussion sitting on top in the middle – it’s a lovely piece of work from beginning to end.
The second track, “Destiny,” starts out with the haunting vocal stab, moves into a nice catchy breakbeat, and then continues in with full vocal arrangement that is more 80s pop than typical techno, and the eventual deep four-to-the-floor justifies its post-disco flavor. It’s easy to envision a stage in your mind – frontman with the band behind, full mosh put but with everybody taking a momentary break to just close their eyes and vibe.
“El Oeste” slows down even further, a grimy kick skipping underneath a bent synth line and snare stutters, the string samples eventually growing up out of the bass before the chord progressions start taking form too much. If there was such a thing as shoe-gaze techno, this would be it at its finest. For someone known as being ‘tropical,’ this track of Talabot’s isn’t going to put your anywhere pleasant – more likely on the North Pole somewhere, waiting in vain for signs of reindeer.
More 80s drums and a scream start “Oro y Sangre,’ and after that, the creepy layered bassline takes center with enough static to make you think retro and a few bongos sprinkled in to make you think transatlantic Latin. By this point in the album already, Talabot has nicely establish his wide stereo sound and is starting to work the angles a little bit, poking just a little fun at the listener. You can see the nudge-nudge-wink-wink with each scream of terror that plays in the background. At this point, you may want to like the album more that you actually do. The initial interest has waned a little and the progressions seem a little loopy rather than structured and relevant, and the fade out at the end of the track puts a period on that.
The rest of the album never quite picks up the way that it could, staying in the deep house-not-house feel and coming in and out of vocal work. Though you can tell he obviously knows what he is doing, there is a slight lack of variation over the course of the tracks, where they are too different to be consistently, and too similar to tell a greater story. His mid-range work starts to get a little heavy as well, and you might find yourself turning the volume down to get a better balance in your ears. “HORSE” gives you a nice stand-out break near the end, but isn’t quite enough to pull you all the way through the album.
John Talabot is apparently something of a mystery, as that is not his real name and there are no aliases listed, but he’s done quite a bit of lauded work in the last few years. His two podcasts for XLR8R and FACT magazine have gotten quite good press, and those who follow him, follow him rabidly.