Xavier Thomas, better know as French producer Débruit, has been releasing his cohesive concoction of far-flung sounds since his first self-released EP in 2006, before a slew of well-received records courtesy of Civil Music that blended elements of West Coast Hip-Hop, Kwaito House and Dub, amongst many other skewed global sounds. Stand-out single, electro-Afrobeat number ‘Nigeria What’ from 2010’s ‘Spatio Temporal’ EP gained notable attention, with dancers worldwide choreographing their own routines to the track’s infectious chopped vocal hooks and scattering drum work. He’s also amassed a significant live reputation after performing a particularly electrifying set on the Red Bull stage at Sonar back in 2009 (he’s an RBMA 2008 alumni) and has since been a highly sought after booking, offering a unique and often unexpected approach to live electronic performance.
This year will see Débruit work on a number of currently under wraps projects, that have so far been described as ‘ambitious creative experiments with a team of subversive accomplices.’ In the meantime however he’s just released his new full-length ‘Outside The Line’ on his own, freshly established ICI imprint. It’s a firm assimilation of his disparate sonic influences that sees the aural components of West Africa meet those of New York’s 1980’s club scene – with intricate percussive rhythms, boisterous chants and weaving synth lines all colliding to form a staunch tapestry of sounds. It’s an impressive collection of tracks and luckily Thomas was on hand to guide us through some of the concepts, processes and deeper meanings behind each of the 11 cuts on his thrilling new LP. Stream the entire record below and read on for Débruit’s commentary.
I wanted to introduce the album with an abstract definition of where it comes from. It goes from natural to synthetic, from imaginary to real – the sound of the sea turns into a synthetic imitation with white noise tremolos. In my head I’m landing on a shore after drifting at sea, a shore where the influences that made the album defied space and time to cohabit.
02. Separated Together
On this track I play electric keyboard in a rhythmic way to get percussive melodies, I wanted it to be loopy and leaning towards a soft Konono n°1 feel. The synths are talking with each other, filling the gaps of one another almost in a seductive way but with a bit of sadness – like something beautiful that can’t be.
03. Stand Up
This track has a Krautrock feel to the synth and heavy drum machines with the one on top being on the edge of swing, more like some west African drums in my mind. It has a kind of Dub feeling too, I realised that after. I really like the loop at the beginning and end, it makes my head spin.
One of my favourites. The influence here is the Punk Funk scene of NYC, like ESG, in a Dub Disco style, with cold sounding synths and a west African sounding lead for the main synth. I played quite a lot of the instruments live on this track. I think the intro sounds a bit like boat horns in a port.
On this one I wanted the Rhodes to sound loopy and rhythmically intriguing within the pattern. I also play organ with a lot of echo, it cracks a bit in the track. I wanted it to be light in the rhythm – a bit housey with some rearranged tribal drum sounds.
A voice that bounces inside of your head, a pressure on the chest, a fast journey. For me this track goes through something, it might be the one that makes you travel through space and time.
07. Desert Dream
This is another one of my favourite on the album. It’s inspired by a melody from the north of Niger. It has the element of the intro (real sound merging into synthetic) but in reverse, here the synth loop will transform in to an acoustic loop of a field recording. Very dreamy and from a deserted place.
08. DUN DUN
This one starts with dun dun drums sound – they’re popular in west Africa. I wanted a 70’s synthetic sound on top of it, just because I had never heard it, with a mechanical funk element in the bassline. It’s so slow and mechanical that it shouldn’t feel funky…but it does.
This one is also for me a Punk-Funk influenced track, with dissonant samples of several likembe thumb pianos. A 70’s synth sound, a bit cold and out of control, quite wild. I see a smoky environment here at a mysterious ceremony or party where it’s hard to distinguish what’s going on. Half friendly half scary, like electricity.
10. Synthetic Dust
This one uses some cheap synth from the 80’s Detroit Techno era. I wanted it to have a less rigid feel. This track is also a journey, starting and ending in nearly the same place, like a landscape in different seasons or times.
11. Am Am
This one is the end of the journey, I wanted the drums to be playful and appear like memories of that journey. I wanted a feeling of distant timbres and textures, voices in the distance. Synthetic, but sung in a human way.
‘Outside The Line’ is out now on ICI, you can buy it here.