At the start of the summer, the oncoming arrival of Steven Julien’s debut album was both an alluring and intriguing prospect. Mastering a delightfully versatile sound under the moniker FunkinEven, Julien’s brushes with electro, funk, house and acid laid an excitingly open foundation for his first full-length release.
The finished product Fallen is built on a narrative which encompasses two distinct sounds. It is an album of two chapters: one of dreamy jazz melodies, the other of deeper harsher cadences. This juxtaposition is what Julien has described as the record’s “whole concept”, reflecting the balance between sadness and joy, light and darkness, which is apparent in human nature and music alike. The LP’s title is therefore perfectly apt, portraying the descending linearity from soft to stark tones.
Fallen’s opening tracks certainly encapsulate the brighter shades of Julien’s jazz-funk influences. In Chantel, sugary sweet synths drift over the subtle undertones of a jazz-infused bassline. The cruising house beat and fluid piano loops of XL are equally as smooth, proving Julien’s mastery in creating an effortlessly cool sound.
The ebb and flow of the title track’s distorted synths introduces the tonal shift, producing the album’s roughest texture. The sleek silky techno of Jedi follows, before Kingdom unleashes rising synth arpeggios over coarse acid scratches to create a moment of mesmerising dissonance.
Yet, whilst this binary structure somewhat feeds into Fallen’s conceptual narrative, the nature of Julien’s compositions restricts its overall effect. The heavy use of synths throughout alongside the delicate and intricate layering of varied sounds bring such depth to Julien’s music that some of the most interesting distinctions are within single tracks themselves. The discordance between clanging organ synths and warm funk grooves in Carousel, and the jazz-breakbeat fusion of Disciple are just two examples of Fallen’s many beautiful nuances. The slightly clouded nature of Fallen’s trajectory is therefore only testament to Julien’s skill and musical flair. The inevitable complexity and intricacy of Julien’s work have led to the creation of an expansive, diverse and compelling record that extends significantly further than two halves of a single narrative.
Words: Georgia Tobin