italic introduced himself to the world in 2001 with a series of singles and remixes that were so unearthly in their sound they suggested a musician hailing from somewhere more distant than Ukraine.
His new album OK Cowboy contains a handful of tracks from the last several years, including trademark single “La Rock 01” and two from The Poney EP. “Poney Part 1” is the sound of ice floes drifting steadily and gracefully across the water toward seemingly unavoidable yet endlessly delayed collisions; “La Rock” is the sound of imaginary techno-cockroaches itching their way across tinny drum slaps and paranoid skin.
What’s more revealing about the album is the fresh material, new single “My Friend Dario” in particular. It stumbles off a series of abortive engine starts before jumping into breakneck post-Ferrari diesel fuel. It even has a human voice beyond the desensitized chant of “You prefer cocaine? Dance like a machine!” that was probably the most distinguishing vocal sample in his work to date. It’s hot and it has a place on the map; in sharp contrast to the cosmic thump of “La Rock” and “Poney,” “Dario” is down to earth; it grips the pavement; it hugs it for dear life.
“Wooo” from last year’s “Fanfares” single also hinges on warmer synths that sound as if they were salvaged from Vangelis’ garbage can. It feels spiritually linked to Vitalic’s remixes of Giorgio Moroder’s “The Chase” and A Number of Names’ “Shari Vari” and again brings an earthiness to his sound that he lacked in the past.
What OK Cowboy does is give Vitalic the context his singles lacked on their own. “La Rock” and “Poney” seemed so anchorless: Their sheer size allowed them to only exist in the absence of gravity. OK Cowboy proves that he can come down to earth and suffer little more than a few synth-hook scratches and a sports car fender bender.
The album does suffer when it strays too far from those monolithic alien structures. Late tracks “U and I” and “Newman” sound more like frosty experimental sketches than full songs. But it is certainly not what many feared it could have been: Recycled singles packed with throwaway filler.
What makes OK Cowboy worthwhile is not a greater emphasis on the chilly tones that made Vitalic’s initial singles so impressive and characterized some of his savage DJ sets, but the demonstration of a surprising degree of variety and even humanity within those seemingly narrow colonnades of rising and whiplash synths over soulless, mechanical drums.
Reviewed by: Erick Bieritz
Reviewed on: 2005-04-21