Release Date: 02.27.01
Record label: sony/epic
French Fried Production
by: matt halverson
Mirwais has never been one for the spotlight. For nearly 20 years, the French DJ/producer eeked out a living in the underground techno scene while fellow countrymen Air and Daft Punk found international success. That all changed when Madonna tapped him to produce half of last year's Music, the album that found the Material Girl once again reinventing herself - this time as a Stetson-wearing rhinestone cowgirl. He's far from a household name, but with Production, his first full-length solo album, Mirwais is finally bringing his genre-bending techno style above ground.
Released more than a year ago overseas, Production is a diverse collection of glam-techno romps that are more style than substance - but that doesn't mean they aren't fun. He liberally laces the album with similar-sounding burps of acoustic guitar, interstellar bleeps and disco beats, but the Swiss-born son of Italian-Afghan parents manages to take each cut in a different direction. Mirwais is quite adept behind the boards, starting, stopping, and reversing synthesizer loops quickly enough to make you think your CD player is on the fritz. Try to find a consistent beat to bob your head to, and you might just give yourself whiplash. The moaning of "We want drugs/We want love" set to a stuttering disco beat and keyboard zips and twirps on "Junkie's Prayer" would be tough to swallow on even the best of ecstasy highs.
But when he's on, Mirwais can most definitely bring the noise. In the case of "Definitive Beat," less is deafeningly more. The title speaks for itself, but its stripped-down drum-and-bass attack is intent on pounding the point home. This is the music Animal from the Muppets would have made if someone had given him a drum machine. The onslaught of otherworldly cymbal crashes and kettledrums threaten to punch you in the nose if you don't get up and dance.
Even when integrating several sonic landscapes at once, Mirwais still knows how to keep it simple. "Disco Science," the song that attracted Madonna's attention, slaps wailing sirens and grinding guitars over a throbbing disco beat and climaxes in less than four minutes - he's left it up to the house DJs to extend it for the club kids. Despite its length, it packs more of a blitzkrieg punch than the rest of Production's eight songs combined.
Though he sprinkles the album with the occasional gem, Mirwais stops well short of producing an all-out club classic. He's clearly been around long enough to know you should always leave 'em wanting more. But with Production, he's prepared to show that at the ripe old age of 39, he can still give today's decidedly younger techno troupes a thing or two.