Hailing from Paris, Mr. Flash has been producing singles, EPs, DJ mixes, and other one-off releases for nearly 14 years. Over the course of his discography, he’s developed a unique cocktail of nu disco grooves, galactic 80s synths, and light electro. But his debut full-length, Sonic Crusader, secures him an even more distinct reputation. By embracing the epic aesthetic of comic book mythologies and sci-fi B-movies, he’s fully transformed into an electronic David Bowie–a shades-toting, cosmic warrior of charm and poignancy. It’s a dramatic-yet-fun space opera, and everyone else in the retro synthwave world is gonna have a hard time matching it.
Calling this “synthwave” doesn’t do it justice, though. No genre is off-limits, from Austin Powers-inspired psychedelic ravers (Motorcycle Boy), to soaring downtempo (Dazzle in the Dusk). Even hip hop makes an appearance, on Number 1, featuring Cities Aviv, Action Bronson, and Oh No on the mic. You could call it scattered if not for Mr. Flash’s love of cinematic gestures that tie everything together. From the moment the intro presents him as Batman with a stirring, Hans Zimmer-worthy string section, until The Wake abandons rhythm entirely and uses beds of pads to soar into the heavens, Mr. Flash likes to keep things as soaring as he can.
The aforementioned Dazzle in the Dusk is where Mr. Flash gets lost in the stars. It’s the only song you’ll ever need if for some reason you find yourself floating aimlessly in outer space. It’s beautiful and lonely, with a wonky synth solo desperately spitting out a longing melody–futile attempts to get somewhere in the face of the heaving, enveloping atmosphere and infinite blackness.
He finally finds a planet to land on with Domino Pt. A. When the stomping kick comes in with a Chariots of Fire-like piano lead, it feels as epic as when Neil Armstrong first stepped on the moon. Each snare hit is one small step for your ears, but one giant leap toward balancing out the alternately corny and affecting vibes of the album’s middle stretch.
One of Sonic Crusader’s best tracks arrives when Mr. Flash leaves the arena and enters the club. On Midnight Blue, classic disco, smooth soul, and driving funk meet to give Chromeo a run for their money. It’s a testament to his talent that the genre shift sounds as natural as gravity.