Parisian producer and beat stylist As Valet released his new album “Virgo Stellar” back in July. The album on the brilliant London-based Futuristica label is one of the best contemporary electronica meets house meets soul discs around. The mellow soulful house beats open the album with guest vocalists LaNote (whose debut album features As Valet on production) and J. Mcfysian on the ethereal “Vérité sur l’amour”. Both vocalists are prominent throughout the set, with LaNote contributing to “Bluffin'”, another veritable dance/electronica/breakbeat tune which actually has a lot of Theo Parrish elements in it. The track somehow never really starts, but things get going again on “Chez Oim” with surreal vocals and a sublime house beat with irresistible keyboard pads woven in.
As Valet, who used to be part of the soul/electronica quartet Electric Conversation, probably comes closest to that particular group and sound on “Come True” with its dark and brooding, yet pretty soulful production and vocal work. I really dig the deep house elements on “Finalement” which works especially well for its repetitiveness and eschews all kinds of bland or obvious touches which are so prevalent in many tracks of this genre. “Inévitable” is a fascinating vehicle for Mcfysian on a thrilling soul/house piece which somehow melds Omar and a more tech-soul mode à la Larry Heard. Handclaps rule!
There is a classy, diverse electro soul stance on “Tell Me”, with more of those trippy LaNote vocals and I wish that the pieces would all last a few minutes longer. And the variations continue: some trip-hop-ism on “Lab e Aint” makes way for an incredible “Lost”, a darker showcase for Mcfysian with a heavy dose of melancholy and despair. The album closes on a much brighter and more delicious note: “Vraies Choses” echoes Moonchild a bit and also shows a lot of detailed production work in the keys and vocal department which was so essential for As Valet’s former group and continues to be an important and elemental asset in his current work.
Check the album out on vinyl. And don’t miss the Futuristica showcase at London’s Jazz Café on November 28th when the label celebrates its 15th year with LaNote, Deborah Jordan, Nathan Thomas, and Georgie Sweet.