8.5Overall Score

Most producers, particularly in their early days, root their sonic identity in a particular style. This musical blueprint will define much of their output that follows, as they work around a formula to varying degrees of success. Yet not all electronic artists take this route. Indeed, many of our most exciting producers defiantly refuse to be restricted to a single sound. Instead of circling a genre, they focus on a mood which will prove the cohesive element to their work.

With his debut LP, only his second solo release, Nico Motte places himself firmly in the latter camp. His themes are clear – 80’s film soundtracks and noir, mystery and neon – but it’s how he works these ideas into a range of styles and genres which makes this such an engrossing album.

Motte is the graphic designer responsible for the distinct visual persona of French label Antinote, who have built up an excellent reputation as purveyors of leftfield electronic explorations. His personal interest in both the audio and visual arts comes across in his production style: there’s a sense of cinematic drama and space that could see any of these songs as the moody theme to an arthouse film.

Motte’s first solo release, 2014’s Rheologia EP, was a collection of synth-fed jams gesturing towards the dancefloor, with a cold, tense atmosphere that betrayed his New Wave inspirations. For this album he’s dropped the club focus and wisely allowed his melodies and atmospheres to unravel. This increased breathing room allows the listener to luxuriate in the elegant details of his music.

Opener Tema d’Amore sounds like an upscale accompaniment to 2011’s ubiquitous Drive soundtrack or KWC 92’s superb mood piece, all huge synths that leave jet trails of reverb and drums that pace menacingly without ever boiling over. These scifi vibes penetrate deep into the album; in the heavy-hearted bounce and soaring melody of closer Beats Benny Keats or the wailing brass and soft, insistent acid line of standout track La Figure de Rey.

Yet for all the success of this taut, synth-drenched drama, Motte offers a range of other styles which he pulls off just as impressively. Spacey dancefloors are covered in the dubbed-out Chicago house of I.C.A, with its melancholy woodwind accompaniment, and the minimal disco of Tacotac, which aches with Nouvelle Vague cool. He proves equally adept at a slower pace, with the romantic chimes of the relaxed title track and the ambient centrepiece Tiger For Breakfast, which caresses the ear with a keening wash and soothing coos.

For all its rhythmic and stylistic permutations, Life Goes In If You Are Lucky feels like a whole. It details a coherent narrative that wanders through different neighbourhoods without ever faltering, with a diversity that’s particularly impressive in a debut album. Antinote continue to strike nothing but gold.