Kavinsky Reborn review: The Dead Cruiser is back | Music | Entertainment

Kavinsky Reborn review

Kavinsky returns with Reborn (Image: KAVINSKY)

Kavinsky has become somewhat of a legend in the ever-growing synthwave music genre. Many consider the producer to have helped usher in the inception of synthwave and outrun music in the early 2010s (I suppose I should say alongside Nicolas Winding Refn’s 2011 movie Drive, of course,). His first and only album, 2013’s OutRun, is still a staple in the scene and is somewhat used as a style guide, a sacred text, a Necronomicon for newcomers. Electronic artists around the world have continually looked to Kavinsky for inspiration, and the decade between his albums has left his fans ravenous.

And while the French producer’s return is exciting, his new compositional style is quite a surprise.

First off: This is not the second coming of OutRun. If Kavinsky were to just remake a new version of his Gold-certified album, it would quietly melt into the background of Spotify. Instead, Reborn acts as a literal reincarnation of Kavinsky as a musician. And it is something to behold.

Through every facet of Reborn Kavinsky explores different aspects of his musicality. Sonically, the record feels like an entirely new artist getting to grips with his own sound. Echoed chord progressions and simplistic-yet-stunning melodies show that, this time around, Kavinsky is allowing himself some time to work. He isn’t in a rush. He breathes between tracks. Sombre songs are lovingly drawn out and enunciated before the cutting dance numbers (of which there are a few) are catapulted into battle.

He knows the score, though.

Kavinsky knows his fans have been waiting a long time for new music from him. Hell, the first words uttered on his new album hearken back to his biggest hit, Nightcall (“It’s been a long time / I used to call you at night).

But he is quick to answer their call in kind: “I am Reborn.”

Kavinsky Reborn review

Kavinsky Reborn review: The Dead Cruiser returns (Image: ANDRE CHEMETOFF)

What this new outlook builds is a fresh take on Kavinsky as an artist, with a more laid back approach designed for azure night drives and violet sunsets.

But fear not, there is still a lot of the Kavinsky that we know and love within Reborn; and it is some of the best music we have received in a very long time.

Renegade, for example, feels like an outright sequel to OutRun’s smash hit Odd Look. A thumping bass lilts behind some gorgeous melodies and a vocal performance (Cautious Clay) that will stick out in your mind for days. It’s one for the playlist, for sure.

And this is just the first example of the many exceptional collaborations within Reborn.

Goodbye leans on Kavinsky’s production a little more while Sébastien Tellier demonstrates his power – especially in these delicately balanced compositions. Plasma sucker punches you with a dainty trill of notes before ripping into the dirtiest drum and bass concoction on the record. And Reborn is expanded dutifully by Morgan Phalen’s two appearances who oozes a distinct Jagger-esque style, and not only does he make the album better overall, but has made a fan of me in the process.

Meanwhile, Cameo sonically whispers sentiments from Kavinsky’s collaboration with The Weeknd – and it’s all the better for it. This is one of the songs that could really send the French star into the mainstream charts and clubs. Vigilante is also a standout in Reborn. It starts off a little too subtle for my liking, sure, but _that chorus_. It is otherworldly; like a soundtrack expertly crafted for a protagonist to make his 11th-hour comeback at the end of the movie. It’s so good.

Kavinsky Reborn review

Kavinsky Reborn review (Image: KAVINSKY)

One of the main attractions to Kavinsky’s world has always been the visual narrative he has built around his work. Namely: The Dead Cruiser, the undead antihero who dwells in the shadows of 1980s highways after a fatal Testarossa crash. 

Fans of the OutRun and synthwave aesthetic will no doubt have already seen the star don his varsity jacket in his music videos and social media posts already – and he has even released a new line of clothing to bring this persona to life again. (As well as a stunning digital watch in collaboration with French company YEMA.)  

But what some listeners might find surprising is Kavinsky has omitted an official “next chapter” for the Dead Cruiser on Reborn.

OutRun leaned heavily on the shtick with a prologue and an epilogue (Prelude and Endless, respectively) of spoken word poetry fleshing out the character. Fans hoping for the next step of this story in Reborn might be disappointed that there is no follow up.

But ultimately, I think the music is more than enough to fill in the gaps.

And Kavinsky is never better than when he explores his own ambitions in his solo work. You’ll be glad to hear he has a few instrumental tracks on Reborn that allow him to really flex his production muscles, proving that he is – still – the best in the business.

Trigger welcomes the musician back into using the strings and horns that he became so synonymous with in 2013, and the relaxed appeal of it all creates such a vibe that truly feels unique (which is kind of a big deal, right?)

But Kavinsky is really in a league of his own with his finisher tracks.

Reborn closes out three solo songs – Zombie, Outsider, and Horizon.

Zombie is, by far, the biggest and best track on the album. Not only does it evoke the feelings of a late-night 1980s disco, but it has such a great hook at its core that you will be hitting repeat on it just to ensure it doesn’t end.

Outsider is a methodical jaunt with arpeggiated notes and a subtle synth melody that would be right at home over some dramatic action scenes.

But Horizon etches exes in the floor.

Kavinsky has obviously placed a lot of time and effort on this track, and doing so has filled it with emotion. The beautiful piano work in the intro effortlessly blends into the harsher tones of the synthesiser that lay waste to the dreary drums hiding in the back. It is the closing of a chapter. The ending of a storm that has been building for almost ten years. It’s a palette cleanser that, in a way, brings the Dead Cruiser’s journey to a close, and it’s really a gorgeous piece of music.

Kavinsky – Reborn is out tomorrow.

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