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Sylvain Garcia seems to be a restless sort. He's got a back catalogue of compilation inclusions and EPs over the last five years, including one on Circus Company. He's also never settled down on any one label. Before learning to produce electronic music in his late twenties, he was in bands with a wide range of styles that took in hip-hop, blues and fusion. He co-developed the popular TouchAble, an iPad app for controlling Ableton, using experience gained from his well-regarded live sets. He went to the RBMA in 2006, and, a couple of years ago while awaiting the birth of his daughter, retreated to the Pyrenees alone to write his first full-length, Freewheel. Maybe the title refers to the way he likes to live in general.
It could also refer to how the album itself tumbles through a wealth of musical ideas. These ideas wash together into a dense fug. Samples are compressed together in the background until they're more or less a texture, ranging from soft clacking to smooth miasmas. The tracks spread like clouds, and hooks are scarce. It's a surreal, dreamlike album. Probably the main reason for this is the way it plays with an ambiguity of mood, something for which Garcia has considerable feel. Lessons in unconventional harmony and structure are taken from a love of the more experimental end of jazz, and from learning theory at a conservatory. "25th February Anatomy," woozy and pretty as it is, has a fuzzy and slightly hysterical edge. "Musique for End of Vida" might wash its way along soporifically, but the way it moves through scenes and uses found sound makes a kind of theatrics evident via all its background whirring.
Le K's tracks have always sounded bizarre, but the drums have usually been fairly straight. On Freewheel they're much more experimental. They're all in 4/4 time, strictly speaking. But good luck mixing, for example, "La Mystique du Canigou." The bells and kick offset and circle around each other, like the pattern of a complex china ornament. Even on the rare occasions the rhythm holds—"Lovely Sleep," "Cloud in Mouth"—to play any of these tracks out would be challenging.
Garcia has stated that he aimed to create something you'd wish to dedicate time to. There are a couple of places where adept sequencing is evident—where what has come before is consummated by a track that brings the spirit of the album into sharper relief. "Buster" exemplifies the album's density but is more forthright, whereas "Weird Dance Cabaret" cavorts insanely, a distorted view of reality that's less a dream than a raucous trip. Generally, though, the album drifts too slowly to grip your attention convincingly for a full hour; it's more about wrapping yourself in its folds. But this is more just its style than a fault as such. Freewheel is a kaleidoscopic collection of inspired tracks, and the frosted glass that blurs the colours is its most characteristic feature.
Karat has always stayed true to their basic philosophy of keeping an open mind in terms of artistic objectives. The simple idea is that, if it sounds good, it deserves to be offered to the public. They have a certain reputation for dancefloor-oriented tunes, but the first priority is to present a wide selection of artists with their own personal vision of style and music. The musical spectrum ranges from pop, house, electro to hip-hop or funk, blended together freely. In the long line of releases, you'll find a coherent variation of styles, solidly distinctive, yet joined by a common goal: making good music.