Paris-based musician Maethelvin has played a key role in the story of the Valerie Collective over the past 11 years, releasing beloved cuts like “Lost in Big City,” “The Last Escape,” and “Night Love,” and contributing to the fantastic catalogue of that legendary outfit. Basically, over the years we’ve been in good hands with Maethelvin.
Today the Nantes, France, native returns with Continuum, the latest in a long line of brilliantly-crafted electronic releases from the artist. It’s an EP packed with beautiful synths, warm synth bass, driving back beats, and profound melodies. In essence, Continuum is a disco and French House-tinged record specifically designed for those special nights — the ones that require a feel-good, melodic soundtrack; whether you’re riding in a car, walking in the City of Lights, or dancing in the best club you’ve ever encountered.
The release opens with “Planarscape,” a mid-tempo strut layered with galactic synths that smoothly move around and on top of each other, weaving in and out in an apparent bid to both soothe and energize. Set aside your concerns for a little while, because the universe is large and beautiful and we need to connect with it and everyone in it. The warm, fat synth bass and buttery melody are going to realign you, just you wait.
Maethelvin follows that previously released cut with the faster “Summer Love,” an ode to embracing your loved one as you dance under an open sky on that perfect summer night. You know the one: it’s not too hot, not too cold. It’s balmy with a crisp, refreshing breeze. If the listener didn’t pick up on this in the opening song, “Summer Love” reinforces Maethelvin’s deft touch when it comes to crafting catchy and compelling melodies and harmonies. He pulls you in and you leave with the notes in your head all day.
“Waveforms,” featuring vocals and lyrics by Annie Hockeysmith, is a true highlight of the EP.
The number taps into the best elements of 1980s dance-pop without going over-the-top with the nostalgia — Maethelvin is too good to not find the right balance of nostalgic and contemporary sensibilities. Fuzzy synths, scintillating synth arps, a pulsating synth bass, and a determined drum machine conspire with Hockeysmith’s engaging spoken-and-sung vocals to create a more disco-oriented take on The Human League.
There is a hypnotic courtship going on as Hockeysmith makes pretty reasonable requests of her lover over the grooves. “If you really love me” you’d know that she wants to watch Netflix, but she’s also down to go out on occasion. She needs help with her car. She wants you to be more communicative about your feelings. She wants to play your video games. Let her be fun. Let her be herself. Those are just some of her requests — all reasonable and wouldn’t we all be happier if our lovers articulated their needs?
Next up is “Party All Night,” which is possibly the most classic-sounding Maethelvin track on the release — it would fit quite nicely at the end of his 2015 compilation CS005. The most active years of the Valerie Collective are many years behind us, but like fellow Valerie member Anoraak does quasi-annually, Maethelvin emerges to remind us why we fell in love with him in the first place. “Party” is an outright groover, bathed in a beautiful array of synths that recall the early years before anyone was calling this “synthwave.”
“Virtual Love” has a slow-burn apprehension that starts out like Jam City’s dub mix of Dita Von Teese’s and Sébastien Tellier’s “Porcelaine,” and morphs into a good-vibed arp-fest of retro goodness, supported by a strutting drum part and led by a triumphant and affirming melody expressed on a shiny and warm synth. This is some hella good love.
It’s a fitting closer for the EP, as it reiterates the various reasons people have come to enjoy Maethelvin over the years: an ear for arrangement, a confidence with rhythm, and a heart and soul for melody and harmony, all tempered by a tasteful deployment of just-enough ‘80s nostalgia to craft the perfect mood without mucking it up with cheese or facsimile.
But that’s not all. French artist Acidulé, who recently remixed Cassius for their W18 (Remixes) EP, and early this year contributed a remix for Memoryy for the first Vehlinggo Presents release, lent his own version of “Party All Night” to the EP. He layers on what feels like an epic story arc as he builds suspense atop a dance-floor dream. That’s followed by an instrumental version of “Waveform.”
Oh, and don’t miss out on the Valerie Stories.