Débruit: From the Horizon
Civil Music

An inspired and fresh outing from Débruit (London-based Frenchman Xavier Thomas), From the Horizon deploys hot-wired synth work, scratchy guitar riffs, hyperactive rhythms, and declamatory vocals in the service of a trippy hybrid of African highlife, hip-hop, and bleepy synthesizer music. Three years in the making and using African Juju and highlife as touchstones, the thirteen-song collection is an arresting set that Thomas painstakingly assembled from field recordings, samples, synths, and drum machines.

There's nothing tentative about his approach, as the bold swagger of the opener “Cri” makes clear. The synth-soaked groove lurches with a crunked-out blaze that's ear-catching all by itself, but then Thomas has the audacity to spread a series of dive-bombing yelps overtop of it and even a talk-box solo to boot. It's not the work of a shrinking violet, in other words. The African vibe is more noticeably evident in the percussion-heavy “Ata” (even though Thomas screws with the formula by bleeding an acidy synth line through the cut's jittery, guitar-accented flow) and explicitly in “Cuivree” (in the incorporation of an African vocal line) and “Afro Booty Musique” (whose rhythms burn with African fever despite the inclusion of distracting vocodered treatments).

The album's sound isn't one-sided, however, as Thomas counters the West African elements with wonky hip-hop and funk rhythms and generous doses of synthesizer blaze. “Mega Wagna,” for example, is as much about fiery synth work as it is claps and sampled vocal chants, whereas the traditions collide during “Akoula” when Thomas chops the original vocal sample into all manner of stuttering lunacy. To his credit, the tracks never come across as little more than the lazy work of a bedroom producer messing around with a grab-bag of samples and beats. Instead, From the Horizon is the sound of Thomas stretching boundaries and forging new sounds to sometimes remarkable effect.

January 2013