French Fries Kepler
Over the past four years, Parisian producer French Fries has tried his hand at numerous styles, but he's rarely—if ever—been called out for a lack of talent. Instead, when he has come under fire, it has usually stemmed from a question of his maturity as an artist. This was particularly true in the case of 2012's "Yo Vogue," in which the track's naively plucked vocal samples seemed to undermine the very scene French Fries was attempting to pay homage to. Kepler, however, is a clear indication that his days of hastily echoing club trends are in the rearview, as French Fries' debut LP showcases a more refined production voice, even if it's one that perhaps still isn't quite ready for the full-length format.
In its simplest form, Kepler collects the kind of efficient, synth-streaked club tracks French Fries has concerned himself with over the past 18 months. The sharp, mechanistic rhythms of Night Slugs, Fade to Mind, and other such collectives have certainly continued to make an impression on the Frenchman, while threads of rugged Midwestern house and electro can also be found buried underneath the analog chords and resonating melodies that color Kepler's 13 tracks. Still, French Fries never sounds overly derivative; instead, he comes off as a producer who is aware that his peers are operating in similar territory, but is nonetheless able to remain focused and confident enough to see that his work bears its own stamp. Left to serve as the driving force of the LP, these stripped, hard-driving hybrids are rarely offensive, though they do struggle to differentiate themselves from one another. With the exception of the particularly house-fueled "Change the Past" or the all-out mechanical "Machine," the album's sharp-edged offerings operate at similar energy levels, and this can make it hard to appreciate them all. On their own, these songs may be impressive singles, but butting them back-to-back seems to have diminished their impact.
In fairness, French Fries does make an attempt to present Kepler as a proper album in its own right. Sprinkled throughout the tracklist are a number of brief ambient segments ("Organic Recreation," "Trying to Understand Curiosity," and the closing "Explore"), which do help tie the effort together by providing resting places between the record's more demanding listens and giving brief glimpses of French Fries' immense depth as a producer. Until "Journey to Kepler" and the surprisingly Aphex Twin-reminiscent standout "Reality System" appear towards the end of the album, these brief ambient expeditions serve as the only tracks to diverge from Kepler's otherwise steady path. However, though French Fries lands on some interesting ideas with these beatless compositions, they ultimately fall short of threading the album together as one congruent piece.
In the end, Kepler is the kind of mixed-bag LP that many producers wind up with when trying their hand at the format for the first time. It seems possible that French Fries has somewhat underestimated the format here, and as a result, the first full-length document of his career answers few questions about exactly what this clearly talented producer is capable of.
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