Evian Christ – Revanchist (Warp, 2023)

Friend 1: “Why do you like this stuff [electronic dance music], it’s so repetitive, doesn’t it get boring?”

Friend 2: “I like it because it’s repetitive”

This is a paraphrased conversation that was recounted back to me not so long ago in a conversation [friend 2] had with a mutual friend of ours on generally listening to electronic music but especially going to see it live. We’ve had a strong mutual bond in music going back 15 years at this point and Trance in particular was a deep seed in our early friendship, and I agree with him here entirely: these are environments where one is taken outside of themselves through sheer scale, rhythm, repetition, reinforcement.

Like it or not, it was these sort of spaces – trance, techno – that provided the basis and breeding ground for more diffuse electronic ambient avenues to flourish. These long-form migratory sessions designed (at least in part) for whacked out rave goers were invariably built for the dancefloor, but none can deny the evocative, hypnotic and richly emotive grandiosity finally lent to electronic dance as a result, however kitsch it seems today. They later evolved of course into the KLFs, BoCs, FSoLs, Biospheres and Loscils of the world, and beyond, but some of that early grandeur has since been eroded away.

I think it’s important to preface Revanchist in this historic way because, although Deconstructed Club and Ambient Trance has been slowly creeping into the consciousness after a general hiatus from popularity, it can be pretty easy to overlook the influence this music had in its time. Evian Christ has long made it clear that Trance is his passion through his various DJ sets, mixes, and remixes, and its exciting in 2023 to hear someone not just distil the fundamental power of the genre into a new record, but imbibe it passionately with all the strength of modernity and electronic evolution.

To that end it’s hard to know where to start with this record, since every moment seems to induce some chaotic flutter of reminiscence in the denuded EDM parts of my brain. Little samples here, stylistic flairs there, bigger arpeggiated crescendoes elsewhere all form this ineffable vibe that picks and chooses iconic characteristics of the era. Whatever it is, it’s big: the sound of this record is enormous, chasmic, each channel carefully allocated its space in this gigantic reverberant cave in religious fervour at the altar of Electronic.

It actually isn’t until the third track “The Beach” that the trance-ier moments really arrive, with its Goa inspired vocals and Vangelis crescendos. A paint can rattles into the explosive noise crushings of opener “On Embers”, a flickering noir nightmare that heaves in a sort of cyberpunk rendition of Roly Porter, raining down burning fragments of twinkling electronica that somewhat filter the rest of the record. Meanwhile sophomore “Yxguden” featuring Bladee rather flips that early drama on its head as it rides a delicate line between the icy Trap of the Swedish rapper, and the cheesy thrill seeking bombast of Happy Hardcore.

Seriousness runs in its veins though, with the driving four-to-the-floor of interior “Nobody Else” doused in glassy arpeggiations and endlessly reverberant vocal lines as Clairo floats easily over the deep Techno cuts. Later “Xkyrgios” slams with skittering Drum and Bass breakbeats and sublimating drones off the surface of its ego as Luv’s cooly confident spoken word repetitions float into the cathedralic space forged in the echo of the clearing piano:

I’m the strongest. I’m the strongest.

There are angelic and elevated moments amidst the more punishing treatments though: penultimate “With Me” hovers in mid-tempo late era Trance baselines, supplemented by Merely’s ethereal, OceanLab reminiscent evocations, and the haunted “Silences” reworks Delerium’s iconic 1997 release of the same name (who I always knew from its Tiesto remix). Dashing horse hooves gallop in the midground like another Blade Runner-ian moment of a Ridley Scott dream sequence, rain falling ambience and spacious vocals evoke a vast space that only makes the collapse of its entrancements in its blinding supernova of a final third all the more spectacular.

This may disappoint the Trance “purist” if they were expecting a record that would take them back exactly to Ibiza 1999, but make no mistake this might be the greatest swansong to the era we’ve ever had distilled into a record. Sure it’s bold, even overdramatic at times, but it epitomises the lavish scale and tantalising crescendo of the EDM of yore whilst bending it through the bleaker prism of modern expectation and dystopian outlooks. Not quite a time traveller, not quite nostalgic, not quite 2023: a black diamond of modernity acknowledging that we sit on the shoulders of giants but the future of EDM looks strong even though, perhaps even in spite of, darkling future prospects.