It has been nearly a decade, but Kavinsky has released a new album Reborn. The French synth & electro producer got his big international break with “Nightcall,” which became a pivotal part of the synthwave movement once included in the film Drive. This came after two EPs in the late 2000s that established him in the French electro scene at the time. His 2013 album OutRun was the culmination of that era, putting out his most complete work at that point. Then shortly thereafter, Kavinsky largely disappeared. Towards the end of 2021, he started to tease some new music and then we got a few singles. That has led to today with Reborn, aptly titled for the musical nadir and then rebirth he went through after that period.
“After the sudden success of ‘Nightcall,’ I didn’t really want to record again,” says Kavinsky in a statement. “I took two steps back and started to imagine what I was going to record after that, at my own pace. The break allowed people to forget about me for a little bit so that when I felt ready to return, I could perhaps try new things.”
But then he got the spark again taking the time to experiment with gear, instruments and his collaborators, which include Victor Le Masne and Gaspard Augé on production and a slew of vocalist like Cautious Clay, Sebastien Tellier, Kareen Lomax and Morgan Phalen.
With Reborn, Kavinsky has released his most refined work yet. There is a mix of synthwave, funk, pop and electro that all meshes together quite well. You can map the progression of his music from Teddy Boy or 1986 to Reborn. It is less intense and more disco and synthwave rather than the darker electro of his early years.
You get that straight from the instrumental intro that slowly moves through its synths, drums and keytar at the end. The second track “Reborn” emphasizes the fact that is a rebirth as Romuald sings on the hook “I am reborn” in a breathy, airy voice.
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The album is a little less in your face than some past work, but it doesn’t skimp out on the big and bold moments. “Renegade,” one of the singles, does just that with a strong dose of 80’s funk and the outstanding hook from Cautious Clay.
The album shows what it really wants to be in the middle with three of four songs from “Plasma” to “Vigilante” featuring Morgan Phalen on vocals with the slow love song “Zenith” in the middle.
A lot of his past work centered around cars, especially driving in fast cars. This manifested through the in your face synths on “Testerossa Autodrive” that wouldn’t feel out of place in a racing video game, the prelude to OutRun, explaining Kavinsky’s love for powerful cars or the continuing saga of the “Deadcruiser” that drives like there is no tomorrow. Reborn does indulge that a little, but not at the extent of past work.
Another theme that gets continued is life after death. He may feel that his career and love for making music is back from the dead -- he has been resurrected and reborn. The song “Zombie” is another reference not just to the legend of the “Deadcruiser,” but leans into the less aggressive side of this album with a soaring synth line that leads the roller coaster of emotions with this album. Reborn eventually ends with two slower, instrumentals.
Kavinsky is reborn with his new album, showing a more refined approach to his music that is more nuanced. It is less of the brash, g dark synthwave and electro in the past, embracing the middle ground of pop, 80’s funk and synth. It may have been a difficult road to get back to this point, but it is all the sweeter to get to the final destination on this album. Get your copy of Reborn here.