Too often, dance albums settle for creating atmosphere rather than commanding attention. But the good ones do both. The solo debut by Steven Julien, the London producer and label head best known for the work he releases under the name Funkineven, has a deliberately unpolished production style that’s a tonic in the face of mid ’10s dance music’s chronic maximalism. These tracks, heavy on vintage analog synthesizers, put the emphasis on Julien’s tunes, and the best stuff has real meat on its bones.
“Kingdom” throws back to prime Chicago acid house, while “XL” is a boom-SNAP house track hooked on an off-kilter piano loop and a vocal snatch of the Jimmy Castor Bunch’s sample staple “It’s Just Begun.” (Julien ends it with what sounds like an early, drum-less demo of the track, a neat reversal of dance music’s usual build-to-a-peak style.) And “Disciple” crosses jazz-fusion bass with a driving breakbeat and buzzing analog synth, like circa-2000 broken-beat minus the smarm. It’s atmospheric, sure—but that’s not all it is.