Teddy Boy EP
ore Dario Argento than Billy Ocean, Kavinsky’s Teddy Boy EP suggests something like, “get outta my car and into my zombie dreams.” Following a fatal car accident in 1986, he has returned from twenty years in the land of the dead to perform a playful dance with the contemporary world’s Faustian autoerotic automobile fetish. And by using song titles like “Testarossa Autodrive,” he begins his tale with one of the 1980’s most easily recognizable symbols of cultural status, technology, mobility, and the need for speed: the Ferrari.
At the same time, if one were to doubt Kavinsky’s genesis, and assume that there could be an alternate identity, perhaps even a living person, behind this release, the lack of information on the World Wide Web may prove an effective counterpoint. It is in the face of this informational void that one is left to their own assessment of a limited set of facts: a man died twenty years ago, and now he is one of the dead walking the Earth. However, this particular zombie has given the living something that only he can, a fantastic short playing EP. So, as Kavinsky’s dead fingers push sequencer pads like spark plugs push pistons, one possible reading is that this is an implicit, post-mortem critique, perhaps along the lines of Walter Benjamin, on the historical ability of humans to synergistically integrate technology into their lives, or afterlives.
Both compositionally and conceptually, Kavinsky’s EP finds its greatest counterpart in Franz and Shape’s 2005 track “Countach.” And as far as an extended family of influences, there is certainly no shortage: Alan Braxe and Fred Falke’s “Rubicon,” Swayzak’s “In the Car Crash,” or even Kraftwerk’s “Autobahn.” But as far as the immediate, audible aesthetic is concerned, it’s synthesizers posing as guitars on wheels, cruising down a highway of neatly step programmed beats; half JG Ballard, half Jan Hammer.
A hundred and twenty something beats per minute, “Testarossa Autodrive” starts in epic 80’s cop-movie style with only a beat and the arpeggios that flutter above before a quick move of the synth’s pitch shift fakes a whammy bar and everything explodes. It’s this track that Mr. Oizo remixes into one of his characteristically fragmented pieces of electro hip-hop. Because of its seeming verse-chorus-verse composition, this track might be excellent mash-up fodder, but it doesn’t necessarily work too well on its own. Following his storyline, the third track, “Transistor,” is a minute-and-a-half of car chase confusion, dangerous late night driving to get away from girl problems, or just a wreckless attempt to get home from a yuppie 80’s blow party. It’s all fast melodies and no low end, a mood piece that sets everything up for the next track: “The Crash.” Big strings, synthetic vocals, and hospital sounds effects let the listener know the Testarossa was no match for whatever it hit, and that at this point our protagonist is dead. Triumphantly returning, hardened from his time spent among the dead, “Testarossa Nightdrive” finds Kavinsky back behind the wheel and looking for something. Now, exactly what that is, one can’t say, but the listener finds a decent Arpanet remix and the final track: “Ghost Transistor.” Just as in “Transistor,” the closing track gives a glimpse into the mind of a man who is moving, quickly, and whether it is tragedy or justice, he will find whatever it is that he’s looking for.
Ultimately, the listener embarks on a somber, emotional ride with a zombie coming to grips with his own ghosts, who wants to see the world, and himself, from the outside. After all, Kavinsky is quite obviously not your average zombie. In fact, he’d probably only eat your brains because he has to … it’s just who he is.
Reviewed by: Cameron Octigan
Reviewed on: 2006-03-02