Gamma by Gesaffelstein | Album Review

The French DJ dives headfirst into distorted synthwave on his third studio album.

Mark Chinapen
Modern Music Analysis
4 min readApr 19, 2024

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Listen to Gamma: Apple Music | Spotify

I find everybody’s introduction to Gesaffelstein (real name Mike Lévy) is always somewhat the same. Either they know of him from his work on Kanye West’s Yeezus or became familiar with him from his star-studded 2019 album Hyperion which featured the likes of Haim, Pharrel, and The Weeknd. Regardless, Lévy has managed to introduce us to his shadowy realm of techno with cuts such as “Viol” and “Reset” to name a few. Unlike other French producers in the same camp like Justice or the legendary Daft Punk. Gesaffelstein has carved his own lane of aggressiveness that is very hard to duplicate and has made him stand out among his contemporaries.

For his third studio album Gamma, Lévy abandons the mainstream appeal of Hyperion and dives headfirst into distorted synthwave. Bringing the furious nuances of his earlier works into the mix to create a short-lived experience that while doesn’t showcase anything remarkable, still manages to provide some enjoyable moments across 11 tracks.

What’s noticeable on the album is the inclusion of the singer Yan Wagner who appears on 6 of the 11 songs on Gamma. His baritone voice acts as the album’s literal voice throughout, evoking the likes of Depeche Mode with his delivery. From the moment Gamma kicks off with “Digital Slaves”, his slick vocals immediately give life to the song’s dark aesthetic and set the tone for the remaining 20-odd minutes of the album.

As entertaining as Wagner is, however, I don’t think he needed to appear in what is nearly half of the album. Often his voice gets buried in the production that he’s no longer the center of attention, as is the case with a song like “Your share of the night”. The punchy production overshadows his singing. In some instances, it feels like a battle between Lévy and Wagner to see who will take control of the song. I found the same issue was apparent on Hyperion, where the guest spots would steal the show but I deduced that it was to make up for that album’s uninteresting production.

With Gamma though, Gessafelstein makes up for the formulaic production of his last album in favour of something much more entertaining. The bulk of Gamma is made up of Lévy’s take on the synthwave genre. His hard-hitting style of techno adds a grittiness to the genre’s otherwise sleek aesthetic. Songs like “The Urge” or “Hard dreams” howl and screech with blaring synths and arpeggios, two factors that have distinguished Gessafelstein’s music in my opinion. For the most part, though, this style doesn’t expand any further than these two aforementioned tracks.

Thankfully there are moments scattered throughout Gamma (and specifically toward the end) that see Lévy return to his roots albeit briefly. The alarming “Mania” is a fast-paced electro-banger whose breakneck tempo adds a little chaos to the album. “Psycho” features some blown-out bass and drums that build and build into an absolute monster of a song. Other tracks like “Tyranny” blend elements of industrial rock while the album closer “Emet” is a synthy, atmospheric tune that plays out like a digitized orchestra more than anything.

These parts of the album break up the monotony of most of the Wagner-featuring cuts of Gamma, and I do wish there was more of that included on the album. If perhaps the album were split into two parts, with the first half being a synthwave ode and the second half being more in line with Gessafelstein’s dark techno then maybe this album could’ve faired just a bit better. Clocking in at 27 mins while it doesn’t overstay its welcome, there also isn’t much to return to on Gamma. Save for some tracks here and there, overall the album comes and goes before you know it.

Despite that, I’m still glad we got another Gessafelstein album to listen to. He has a unique flair in his music that can’t be replicated, and his decision to go in a synthwave-inspired route with one lone feature works for the most part. While I would opt to have his older/heavier style of techno be much more apparent on the album, Gamma was a decent listen overall.

I’m feeling a strong 6/10 on Gessafelstein’s Gamma. As I said previously, the album is nothing incredibly remarkable, it does its job and that's pretty much it. For some, this might scratch an itch but for others, they could’ve been expecting more from Gessafelstein especially when considering the 5 years between Gamma and Hyperion.

Final Rating: 6/10

Favourite Tracks: Digital Slaves, Hard dreams, The urge, Psycho, Tyranny.

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Mark Chinapen
Modern Music Analysis

I like to pretend I’m a critic. Writer and editor for Modern Music Analysis