Electronic records are a lot like cab drivers. It often seems as though there are too many, delivering too little quality. But just as this driver spells his name with a K, the quality also pops. Kab Driver is an alias of Belfast-based producer and co-founder of RESET label and club night, David Baxter. In his first self-titled release, he attempts to capture his infamous live shows within an album full of funk, electro, futuristic synths—all while managing to flow coherently without reaching monotony. A collaboration with French label, Airflex Labs, ‘Kab Driver’ wears its influences with pride, but fuses them together with the subtly of a lidless blender.
A short Intro welcomes us, ticking down like a journey in a time machine, going backwards really fast. You’re sucked in now, from the get-go. An unsteady beat displays no obvious pattern, yet instantly warms itself. A similar Interlude and Outro are present, but a bit pointless—sounding like Baxter is wiping down the beats after overusing them, only to start back up again.
But when he starts them, he revs. The funky IMTDFM’s staggered drum beat dictates the groove, with subtle gasps and heavily vocoded vocals slathering a sleazy vibe under the brash synths. Definitely not something that can be ignored, it’s just the first signifier of the intricate detail and carefully placed beats that Baxter manages to gift-wrap under waxed production.
Never Say Never’s underlying catchy beat is layered under shuffling samples, throbbing bass, snaps, chimes, and feedback, all pulled together into a sort of jazz house infusion for a space age. Sure, it’s all over the place, but so damn good at it. Each track is meticulously put together, every beat has it’s place without succumbing to a sterile loop—they’re varied in the simplest but most effective of ways.
Collaborators Brian Greene and producer Boxcutter join in for slowed-down Batteria. It’s futuristic, but with smoother vocals—a welcome mix-up to avoid the monotony that can sometimes afflict electronic records. But it’s straight into the funk of Hare’s Gap that shows Baxter’s homage to the 80s, sounding a bit like Studio 54 might have in space. Shooting space-invader synths are closely followed by a suave disco vocal from Greene, all brought together with pristine production and an atmosphere that’s all too easy to get lost in.
These tracks can be in the background or at the forefront, pending context. It’s a flexible being, adapting to the atmosphere. Take The Mule’s subtle cowbell contrasted with that plump electro bass. Frisbee wave beats ensure the ambience is comfortably set for both white noise or in-your-face party mode.
This is a direct result of the genre-hopping Kab Driver experiments with within the larger electronic sphere. The insanely funky Garcon is the perfect hedonistic display of French electro the title alludes to, without loosing any of the fun. Then there’s dubstep—at least we think so—until Ormeau Strip settles into itself and brings us in a completely different house direction.
A little less laid-back are the frantic opening beats of Wanted This. Sure, they’re a bit schizophrenic, but when the song settles, the drilling jazzy-house and warbling synths competing with sparkling chimes all impress under emotionless vocals. But it’s the soulful LTX that brings a warmth to the robotic speech. A phone ringing, “Baby we can work it out, Sweetie lets work it out”. It all sounds odd run through a vocoder, like loved-up robots sweet talking each other.
Baxter has created a mad ride of a record, and while there’s no particular bumps we haven’t hit before, the view is a constant pleasure. Each track makes its own mark, cuts its own edge in the jigsaw, keeps the buoy hopping so it never goes under. ‘Kab Driver’ is an absorbing, almost careless depiction of what electronic music should be. Never boring, never samey—never asking if we’re there yet.