- Listening to the likes of Kenny Dixon Jr and Larry Heard, it's easy to think that they didn't set out to write house tracks, but that their music fits into the larger continuum of black music and just happens to get people moving. The idea seems echoed in a recent quote from Steven Julien (AKA Funkineven) about his debut album. He told The Wire, "Fallen is exactly where I'm at in my head at the moment and hopefully forever. I've been a fan of jazz, fusion and proper music, proper scores for years and years, and it feels like everything I've released has just been dance floor related." Though he claims to be turning his back on dance music, Julien's LP actually has a number of excellent club cuts. But he does broaden his scope, demonstrating a knack for jazz-fusion and soundtrack-style work alongside his usual drum tracks and funked-up house.
There are two distinct halves to Fallen, as evidenced by its two front covers. (One depicts Julien blowing blunt smoke in a nod to umpteen '90s hip-hop albums, while the other is a photo of him in a convertible by a beautiful beach vista.) The instrumental record borrows its concept, that of a fallen angel, from the Bible, starting in a utopic zone and ending in the dark of night. On Fallen, heaven is a beautiful set of chords. Beatless intro "Begins" is a cool wave of descending Rhodes, countless synths and even a wild, modal jazz solo. "Carousel" looks back to Julien's West London roots and time spent at the Co-Op broken beat night at Plastic People. They set the stage for "XL," a perfect piano house track that Julien's been sitting on for 15 years.
Fallen's midsection consists of three interludes representing the transition from good to evil, or day to night. "Marie" plods along cheerfully, minding its own business, before being usurped by the twilight of "Oshun." That one's rough kick looms in the background while minor-key arpeggios and piano build an ominous mood. At the end, the synths become blurry and obscured, like the last bit of purple fleeing from the night sky. If "XL" is the light half's obvious highlight, "Jedi" steals the show on the dark half, mixing a tough, rolling bassline with dubby ethereality, just like Omar-S.
Tracks like "Reficul" and "Disciple" frame Julien's dance floor aversions as a creative conceit, an idea used to inspire a stylistically varied album. But these two prove he's still very much down with the DJs. "Reficul" trades in the acidic menace of Funkineven EPs like Apron 001 and Species, while "Disciple" is built around a wild breakbeat. Fallen wraps with "End"'s plaintive Roland chords, concluding the story of epic spiritual drama on a mournful note. Whether or not Fallen matches the scale of its concept, it contains Julien's most musically accomplished work to date. He's still a dance producer, but he tells a compelling, nuanced story.