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SPIN Essentials

Kavinsky, ‘Outrun’ (Casablanca)

SPIN Rating: 8 of 10
Release Date: February 26, 2013
Label: Casablanca

French producer Vincent Belorgey has been releasing unabashedly bombastic, undeniably propulsive, deliciously vintage electro-house under the name Kavinsky since 2006. Outrun is his full-length debut. Four of the album’s 13 tracks have been kicking around for a couple years, with the dreamy “Nightcall” soundtracking Ryan Gosling’s googoo eyes in Drive, and the others adding drama to, I dunno, less famous people’s aerobics playlists, to name an appropriately Reagan-era activity. Point being, Kavinsky had a bunch of songs ready; he just needed something to tie them together.

And so: “The year was 1986,” announces a voice with an indistinct accent on Outrun opener “Prélude.” “He was a teenager like any other.” Yep, Kavinsky found his idea. That “any other” doesn’t last for long, though. Over icy arpeggios and thundercrack drums, the narrator explains that the unlucky teen came across a mysterious Ferrari Testarossa, took it out for a spin, and died in a crash. Or did he? “He and the car became one. Their souls spliced forever.” Only his still-living girlfriend can see the ghost rider. For a largely instrumental album, this is a lot of narrative.

Impressively, Outrun rivets your attention in a watching-Highlander-on-a-Sunday-afternoon kind of way. “Odd Look” cruises sleekly, its synth riffs gleaming and monolithic. On the triumphant “Suburbia,” Mobb Deep rapper Havoc delivers some charismatically steely-eyed, if anachronistic, verses. (Unless the Testarossa has a flux capacitor, who knows why he’s mentioning Twitter and Facebook, but who really cares?) Elsewhere, hair-metal electric guitars wail majestically on “First Blood” and the Daft Punk/Ratatat hybrid “ProtoVision”; meanwhile, on “Nightcall,” guest vocalist Lovefoxxx heartbreakingly sounds like a replicant who almost learned to love. Somewhere, Jan Hammer and Giorgio Moroder are giving four thumbs up.

Certain tracks, such as the string-choked “Rampage” and the idling “Deadcruiser,” spin their wheels a bit. The finale, “Endless,” hinges on the phrase “some say,” which, legend has it, is pretty lame. But there’s a grandeur and purity of intent to the whole doofy concept that prove hard to resist. For Kavinsky, B-grade electronic ’80s gunk is rocket fuel, and it makes Outrun soar.