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Le K – Freewheel review

The old adage goes that the best music is not constrained by time. If ever there was an age where this is true, it’s in the 21st century as information passes at an exponentially faster rate and staying power becomes a novel concept in the face of progress. As such, Le K’s debut album Freewheel comes into the limelight after some three years gestating in the starting blocks, while its creator searched for the right label and pursued other ventures such as creating the successful touchAble Ableton plugin.

Such an unhurried approach speaks volumes for Sylvain Garcia’s faith in his music, and there’s certainly nothing fashionable or current about it. Even when he was releasing on Circus Company and Floppy Funk at something of a peak for avant-garde European house and techno, his sound always went against the grain of his contemporaries. Now Freewheel appears with little to no points of reference, and it sounds all the stronger for it.

If ever there was a fitting home for this patchwork music, it would be Karat; a veritable institution of French electronic music that set the tone for a wealth of celebrated artists in the wilder climes of dancefloor music, from Ark and Mr Oizo to Noze and dOP. While Le K doesn’t sound particularly like those artists, it’s worth remembering that they don’t sound like each other, instead unified by a kind of sonic liberation that starts with a jazzy mentality but uses any source, method or ethic to create the end product. There are 11 tracks of psychedelic wonder on Freewheel, and each one sports its own distinct character. Moody opener “Souphic” leans on a deep house backbone, but uses all kinds of haunting tones and delicate chimes to create a strong melodic hook. “La Mystique du Canigou” opts for carefully syncopated phrases which loop awkwardly over the kind of intense glitch you would expect to find on an Autechre record.

Indeed there’s a tendency towards expressive strangeness all over the place, not least on the tellingly entitled “Sudden Impulse”, which fires scattershot drum hits around unsettling vocal tones, and somehow comes off feeling emotive. The point is that Garcia isn’t being strange for strangeness’ sake, but rather uses his unique style to express himself honestly. There are moments of surprising directness too, as on “Epic Horns”. What starts off as a discordant mess of tones eases into a solid and slow breakbeat, before a glorious fanfare calls out. The name of the track might come on a little naff, but in this case it is actually quite accurate.

With albums such as this, you could spend another lifetime going deep on the intricacies of each track, but it would ruin the enjoyment to be had peeling back the layers of this dense and full-bodied album. It’s hard to say where an artist such as Le K would go from here in his career, such a bold statement he has made, but this album has enough longevity in it to keep our ears sated for a good while yet.

Oli Warwick


1. Souphic
2. 25th February Anatomy
3. La Mystique du Canigou
4. Sudden Impulse
5. Epic Horns
6. Musique For The End of Vida
7. Lovely Sleep
8. Buster
9. Cloud in Mouth
10. Weird dance Cabinet
11. Boards of Leucate