Listeners who checked out Rémy Pelleschi’s 2014 LP Polygon probably won’t be that surprised by Mlada Fronta’s shift into full on synthwave on the aptly titled Outrun. The former record found Pelleschi turning his eye to the night time world of neon synths and gated snares at numerous points, so much so that his fully embracing the sound and aesthetic (check the car on the cover and the “No Limits, No Rules: Live Only for Speed” credo plastered across the record’s promo materials) feels like a pretty natural move for the french artist known for his industrial, technoid and IDM productions.
As you might guess based on its title and album art, much of the early run of Outrun is dedicated to straight-down-the-pipe, uh, outrun electro of the type that has flourished in recent years. There’s no denying that Pelleschi has a good ear for the style, especially on the opening three tracks “Melt Into the Road”, “200 MPH” and “Speed for Life”, none of which deviate too far from the template of snappy kick snare patterns, bright heroic synth pads and piston pumping basslines. What shines in each song is Mlada Fronta’s capacity for mood and texture, taking a common toolset (not just for these songs but for an entire subset of music) and using them to evoke different moods, from bright and hopeful, to exhilarating and sinister. This stuff is far from the 80s-sounding plugin cheeze that permeates so many similar-minded efforts, eschewing easy markers for vast swathes sonic highway.
It’s when some distinctly different elements seep in that Outrun that Mlada Fronta’s lengthy history starts to show itself. “Simulator 1983” is a good nexus of the project’s history and its contemporary sound, marrying an arrangement of vocoder and bubbling quantized bassline to some very sharp synths, gradually upping various pitches and the density of the mix until the song morphs from Testerossa to tank. “Roller Coaster” on the other hand goes the full buzzing electro route, complete with detuned leads and a relentless boom-tsch rhythm that wouldn’t seem out of place in any number of modern day techno-ebm crossovers. There’s no overt nods to MF’s more experimental past; outside of some very pleasant twinkling IDM touches on the dreamy “Take the Leap”, the whole of the LP stays pretty firmly in the territory laid out in its name. With that in mind, it makes for an enjoyable listen, the work of a skilled producer and programmer taking a road trip through a very specific genre.