Daft Punk Done Right
French tech geek Pascal Arbez — stage name Vitalic — probably never imagined beating his countrymen at the game they mastered. Yet Daft Punk’s recent abomination Human After All opened the door for such an upset. Like great DP songs of yore, Vitalic successfully creates drama and catharsis by wrapping the simplest 4/4 drumbeat in layer upon layer of synthesized orchestration and fuzzed-out samples. Vitalic’s first full album, OK Cowboy, is the album Daft Punk wishes it made in 2005.Despite being first heard in 2001, “Poney Part 1,” the album’s introductory floor filler, still fits perfectly alongside the constantly shifting machinery whine of “Newman” and “La Rock 01.” “My Friend Dario,” meanwhile, is superb guitar-driven electroclash with vox-box lyrics that quickly sum up the tale of a nihilistic driver on Kraftwerk’s Autobahn (“Doesn’t care / About to crash”). Here and elsewhere, OK Cowboy manages to turn some of Vitalic’s sonic references on their respective ears.
In fact, Kraftwerk’s synth-pop makes an actual appearance fused with Air-like lounge sensibilities on the calming “The Past.” “No Fun” is a distant cousin of Adam Freeland’s notorious “We Want Your Soul,” dissonant acid house with a short recited list of absent things (“No guitars / no leather / no fun”). There are also playful bits of experimentation, like the classically influenced “Polkamatic” and the drums-only “Valletta Fanfares.” An overall refreshing work, OK Cowboy makes Vitalic a worthy candidate for French — and worldwide — dance-music royalty, if Daft Punk is indeed in the process of stepping down from its throne.