Danger – 太鼓 (Taiko/Drum) – Album Review

Despite glowing acclaim from the community and reviewers alike, French artist Danger has never really hit it big. Breaking out in 2007 with the single “11:30”, his sporadic release schedule, rejection of long-form works, and mysterious, anonymous nature has gained him status as underground’s best gem. For a while, it seemed he was content to keep it that way. When he took to Facebook last month to announce his debut album after 10 years of music production, then, it came as a shock to the community.

Given his rather outspoken negativity about the format, many assumed he would never release an album, much less put quite a bit of marketing behind it. Some were worried about the quality and variety of the album – would the master of monstrosity be able to keep such a lengthy release varied enough to please us? Others wondered if this was an attempt to “sell out”; as far as is known, Franck Rivoire (the man behind the mask) has no other aliases, and releasing a single every year surely can’t be profitable. I was certainly concerned myself when I read the album would contain an entire 15 tracks and would include vocal collaborations.

I’m happy to tell you that such worry is completely unwarranted. This album is everything it should be. Perfectly paced, monstrously powerful, and cinematic to the highest possible degree, 太鼓  is the ultimate in Danger, and is everything his career has been leading up to. In fact, I am so satisfied, he may never have to release another song under the alias again. Drawing inspiration from modern hiphop, trap, and critical albums such as The Glitch Mob’s Drink The Sea, as well as the usual 80s/90s horror movie score, it’s obvious everything Danger is has been poured into every second of this work.

太鼓 is Danger’s magnum opus, and although there are minor pacing issues, it is the next big electronic masterpiece, ready to stand among the greats – provided people listen to it.

Length: 15 Tracks, 59:45

Genres: French House, Witch House, Cinematic

Label: 1789 Records

The more Japanese-aware of you may have already recognized the album’s peculiar title, 太鼓, as the kanji for “taiko”, or drum.  For native Japanese speakers, this would be used to refer to any type of drum, though outside of Japan it usually refers to a particular group of Japanese drums, known as wadaiko (和太鼓). These are known for their rhythmic, strong sound, especially when played in the traditional way. According to Franck in an interview with Nest HQ, during a trip to Japan, he was fortunate enough to attend a traditional baptism in Kyoto. During the ceremony, he fell in love with the instrument. He was taken back by the sheer power and solid sound of the drums in ensemble, or kumi-daiko (組太鼓). No surprise, then, that they’re a perfect fit for Danger.

A perfect fit for Danger, and, as it turns out, a perfect theme for the album. Every track of this album uses taiko samples; there is not a single typical drum sample to be found. While this means it may not be what you expect from Danger’s sound, it ends up strengthening his already unique palette, drawing attention to the core of each song and breaking away from the typical EDM mould that his older tracks still adhere to. In any other artist’s hands, this dedication to a singular element may have resulted in a repetitive disaster, but Franck seems to understand not to let his affection blind him. The use of the taiko drum lends the album an incredible cohesion that, even if expected from Danger, is a bit more impressive than usual.

Danger playing a live opening set for Porter Robinson and Madeon's Shelter Live. The lighting is dark, and Danger is up on stage. Two screens are behind him, each with a man banging on a taiko drum. The screens are red and the Danger logo is on them.
Danger playing a live opening set during Porter Robinson and Madeon’s Shelter Live tour.

Although there is strength in the taiko drum, and therefore the whole, the real strength is within the moment-by-moment variety and glamour. 太鼓 revels in the unexpected; like all good fiction, the concept and setting are only a base to work off of; what happens within is what makes memories. I mention Psycho and what is your first thought: the premise of the story or the famous shower scene? Yes, Franck knows well enough to restrain the drum, but what is perhaps the most stunning is what he crafts in its stead. Each track is a canvas; in each, an idea is introduced, explored, used to paint a scene, then passed on to its successor.

I could bore you with technical, in-depth talk about how this sample works into this song, and how this structure makes this song stand out to explain myself, but I’d rather forgo that. For those of you who have not listened yet, I also wish not to spoil or ruin any of this incredible magic. In a week, I will sit down with Noah, who is more technically knowledgeable than me, and do a track-by-track discussion and analysis, for those like me who do enjoy this sort of analysis. For now, I encourage you to experience it for yourself and form your own impressions.

Darkly outlined silhoutte of Danger.
Danger promotional image.

Unfortunately, 太鼓 is not without faults, albeit small ones. Despite its otherwise brilliant flow, the end of the album does falter and peter out, leaving one with the sense that it never really concluded. While intensity and climax fills the entire album, each track after “21:10” (and especially finale song “3:00”) focus on more introspective structures, killing the buzz and literally fading out into unexpected silence. In what could otherwise have been one of the best paced albums in EDM, this is an annoying missed opportunity that aggravates more than it should.

More akin to a symphony than a mere album in many respects, 太鼓 is what we all desperately needed. It’s exciting, big, surprising, and satisfying, which is more than can be said about 60% of current new hits. It elevates itself above expectations with both unexpected variety and cohesion. It’s peculiar. It may not be the image of perfection in many fans’ eyes – it’ll certainly divide longtime Danger listeners – but it’s what Danger really is, for better or for worse. It’s strong and rhythmic and solid.

太鼓です. Thank you, Danger.

Side Notes:
  • Is that a Lil Brain UTAU?
  • I don’t know who Tasha is, but she fucking KILLED it.
  • I can’t seem to find every section that was in the Lost Tape in the album. It’d be interesting if there was exclusive content in the preview mix.


[Cover art & thumbnail art courtesy Danger; other in-text images courtesy Nitrous Oxide & Raymand Marchand]

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