Quality control: Vitalic – Flashmob

Signalling the arrival of your new album using an online day-hour-minute-second rolling countdown is a bit conceited, but we can forgive Vitalic. Flashmob is another genre-defying record from the French electro trendsetter, and the chattering dance classes have been drooling in anticipation. Vitalic aka Pascal Arbez doesn’t do quantity, but at least he’s got ruthless quality control. Recording since 1996, Flashmob is only his second album. The Dijon producer’s 2005 record OK Cowboy even had three quarters of his 2001 Poney EP, a year zero electro assault that featured La Rock, his seismic signature tune whose chainsaw synth assault could go one-on-one with Slayer in the moshpit. OK Cowboy’s clash of clanging techno and razor-sharp electro was a jolt of life in an ailing dance scene that Daft Punk’s half-baked Human After All couldn’t muster.

Four years is a long time in dance music, and Vitalic hasn’t dropped OK Cowboy II (Justice, Digitalism and co did just that). He has reeled in the heavy metal club bangers in for his new take on filthy glitterball disco, techno, Belgian new beat, EBM and everything in between. Flashmob still has all the Vitalic hallmarks – punky synth riffs, sheet metal snares, quirky mechanical effects – but it’s more focused than OK Cowboy, which often flies off in stylistic tangents. He’s also taken a more streamlined approach, doing away with the techno template of sprawling intros. Opener See the Sea (Red) hits the ground running with a 4/4 beat within a few seconds, its grainy synth riff buoyed by ping-pong sounds and a ’50s sci-fi b-movie melody. By two minutes it’s already building and dropping, flying off the handle with a distorted vocal pay-off.

Although the influence of French acts like Daft Punk and Air can’t be ignored, Vitalic travels further back in time to mine his country’s electronic landscape on Flashmob. The Italo-tinged Poison Lips and Station Mir 2099 recall ’70s cult French disco act Space, and One Above One’s monotone electro vocals could have slotted in easily to last year’s underground compilation Bippp: French Synth Wave 1979-85. The fluttery laser effects that billow around most tracks here could be straight out of Jean Michel Jarre’s synthesiser store room.

Okay there’s no La Rock 01, but that’s such a monolithic one-off he hasn’t tried again. The dancefloor money shots here are the title track with its perpetual crescendos and acid squelches, and Terminator Belenux’s waspy bassline, 80s cowbell and mental ‘HA HA!’ outbursts – sure to be a killer when he takes the live show on the road. The self-explanatory Your Disco song, with its Zombie Nation-style caustic synth hook is also a shameless ode to the dancefloor – like songs with ‘Radio’ in the title that just beg for airplay.

Unlike OK Cowboy, there aren’t many quirky interludes between big tunes, and the only track that clocks five minutes is Still, with its floating chords and chimey melody. The album also takes a breather on Alain Delon, a spritely electro-pop tune with a nod to Giorgio Moroder’s classic E=MC2 album, or Kraftwerk at their most playful. Second Lives carries on where Poney (Part 1) left off – another swirly space-age anthem that sounds like a robot ballet.

Flashmob is another cosmic landmark from Monsieur Arbez, and the man from Dijon proves yet again he can cut the mustard.

Originally appeared in state.ie