Throughout a given year, I’m often found listening to the electro/synthpop of Anoraak (AKA Frédéric Rivière), the French musician known for his work as part of the Valerie Collective, but also for his releases on Grand Blanc, his various collaborations, and his killer live sets.
Especially during the summer, his songs color my landscape. After all, what better way to spend the summer than taking in sunny synthpop fare like “Long Hot Summer Night” from 2010’s Wherever the Sun Sets or the bouncy synthwave of “Endless Summer,” from his 2008 debut, Nightdrive With You? Indeed, it’s a bit on the nose – like listening to Bon Iver in the winter – but it works. It works so very well.
Rivière knows this jam, of course. He recently released his laid-back, somewhat-sunny new EP, Figure, on his new label, Endless Summer Music. He used to have a label called Endless Summer Recordings, mind you, so along with the song and the new operation, Rivière has made sure to solidify his place as a primo purveyor of the hang-loose summer vibe.
Though Figure is relatively carefree, it’s really an exercise in contemplation. In fact, the hypnotic mid-tempo cuts are so contemplative they’re almost sacred. In many ways on this new four-original-track EP, l’esprit de Anoraak is not unlike the work of Tycho, Rollmottle, or Seahawks: Expertly crafted and with Grade-A serenity backed with steady and pleasing grooves. It’s just that he’s pairing all of that with some serious mindfulness.
Shades of Anoraak
The cuts on this new EP embody the different personality traits of Anoraak’s various experiments over the years. Shades of the pre-Drive synthwave pioneering of Nightdrive and the shiny synthpop hooks of Wherever are evident, but so too is the club-oriented intensity of 2013’s Chronotropic and his subsequent DJ sets.
Figure is also laden with all of the hallmarks of a quality Anoraak cut from any release. The compositions are clean and colorful with slow-builds that yield massively pleasing payoffs.
The standout cut is “We Lost,” a slow-burning, meditative collaboration with Valente Bertelli’s new Slow Shiver project.
Bertelli’s vocals have this timbre that resides somewhere between Peter Gabriel and Bryan Ferry, portraying an increasingly aching sense of regret every time he repeats the chorus “We’ll never know/We’ll never know/We’ll never know what we lost.”
Underneath that are Anoraak’s lush and transcendent synth arpeggios and a modest, steady drum beat. This whole song is one special moment, especially when the cut first crescendos to that big chorus. Although LEFTI’s great remix, included on the EP, makes the song more of a French House banger, the overall vibe of the original never ceases.
Some will recall “Odds Are Good,” which came out a year ago on the Eskimo Recordings Presents: The Orange Collection compilation. Although it pre-dates the Figure EP, the cut is very much a child of Figure’s theme. Only this time, Anoraak takes over the vocals himself, adding his familiar soothing pipes to a gorgeous display of synthesized contemplation.
“Heart Out” has a mid-tempo, nu-disco strut to it. This groove is paired with Anoraak’s easy-breezy vocals, creating a rather sophisticated, buttoned-up track that I could see Italo Disco legend Gazebo covering with great success.
Finally, the title cut is a lot of fun. It’s an ethereal, quasi-Balearic piece that employs snappy and minimal beats underneath some gorgeous guitar and piano noodlings that intermingle with Anoraak’s reassuring utterances that he’ll “figure it out.” I could easily see Seahawks remixing this one. At the very least, they should hit up Rivière to remix some of their own work.
Overall, Anoraak has given us a great collection of dance and pop numbers that use celestial crescendos, steady beats, and intricate melodies to provide some catharsis at a time when the world seems to be falling apart.
To check out the whole EP, either just buy it (!!) – or stream it on Spotify.