This article comes in two parts and was written with the precious help of Sara Stella, amazingly keen on French electro music.
The first part is accessible HERE.
As the movie i mentioned in the first part of this article will be released in November of this year, i thought that a good kick in my lazy ass would certainly do me some as good as the draft of this second part – that you can read now -, has been squatting the draft section of our favorite musical webzine (that is Generation Bass of course) for ages.
Eden will be the name of the movie, directed by Mia Hansen-Løve, with a great French casting and a certainly an excellent soundtrack that will please those into French electronic music.
The second wave. “Décomplexée”.
This “décomplexée” might be perceived as offending as it is directly related to French politics “uninhibited right wing”, but now as a few years have passed we can look at this period with an unpassionate point of view and consider that France and its culture at this time (especially in music) has something clearly arrogant, aggressive and charming; welcomed and backed up by a worldly audience.
This time things are fairly different. The French complex has disappeared and there are some good reasons to that. People from the second wave have understood many things about the marketing of their music. First there’s no « funny/clumsy » accent when they speak. Yes, they still may sound a little bit French but it’s very difficult to notice it. Second the music has lost the characteristics we could find in the first wave : the references to 70’s French pop are mereley gone, they actually have built a new standard based on 80’s synth music. Third the images used in the videos are more fitting the tastes of the young geekosphere.
Musically this second wave is emblematic. Characterized by a loud side-chain compression and poly-instrumental micro-sections on the melodies, this musical production will influence all the modern EDM.
In a globalized connected world, French music is now not ashamed to spread around the world and uses the backup of the industry to get international recognition. The idea of “French Touch” is cleverly modified to focus on the smart, refined aspects and leaves aside anything related to a lack of confidence, shyness, etc… that i explained in the first part of this article. The improvement of technologies, the deployment of fast networks and social plateforms has generated a mayhem of unstructured cultural contents unrelated to one another but generating however a great fascination. We find therefore multiple references to cultural contents from different periods and trends ranging from cult movies to graphic novels. One another major move, is that at last important French companies will finally have a sensitive thought and use modern music for their commercial campaigns. Something that was done years ago by UK or American businesses but which for some reasons was ignored here in France by marketing and advertising departments.
AN ERA OF COMMUNICATION
Cross-media supports&graphic music.
The transition is in progress. If we compare this video to the one of Sexy Boy from Air, differences are immediately noticeable.
Midnight City the most popular track of the band (without Nicolas Fromangeau). The video refers to Village of the Damned from Wolf Rilla (1960).
Used for at least three different advertising campaigns the song will be overheard on TV and radio channels. Being the support music for Renault cars brand and Samsung Galaxy Tab the fame is global and undisputed. It is also to my mind one of the most remixed tracks over the past years.
JUSTICE&ED BANGER RECORDS
Pedro Winter’s label, certainly the most important – at least in France -, the French stable has come up with great names in electronic music culture or shed the light onto young talented film directors.
Real success ? The question was raised among music officionados. Was it over exaggerated to boost up the French audience ? So many good and bad things have been said about the band that i don’t have much to add, only that it worked for sure in France and widened the fame of the band , as well as the one of Romain Gavras and So Me the video directors through the rock’n’roll attitude displayed in the documentary.
Working also onto polemical content also helped the fame of the band. The raw unjustifed violence of the video made the buzz and caught the attention of internet users desperate to provide their own interpretation of the images.
Used as a support music for an internet and communication provider, the band will again benefit from a strong nationwide broadcast.
Connected to Pedro Winter, SebastiAn will get some good fame from the EP Ross Ross Ross including three tunes : the famous Ross Ross Ross track praised by many magazines, Head/Off and a remix of Kelis Walkman.
This roaring track will be broadcast many times on a video game TV channel – almost everyday, if not twice a day -, used as the unofficial soundtrack of the game Need for Speed Carbon.
The EP cover is designed by So Me, musician and art designer strongly involved in Ed Banger’s productions.
Known first for his great talent as a music composer and sample digger with the rap band Ideal J.
From a simple rework of Maria Carey‘s Looking in intro
To the extremely elaborate mixture and digging of Paquito d’rivera‘s No puedo ser feliz and TC 2000 soundtrack for Hardcore (great flow, stupid lyrics).
Dj Mehdi will switch to electronic music in the years mid-2000.
One element that will be put forward on the new French Touch musical scene is the closeness that exists between movie makers and music makers. Dj Mehdi here composing for the film Notre Jour Viendra, a movie by Romain Gavras featuring two gingers revolted against society. Romain will use the idea of stigmatized gingers again for M.I.A‘s video Born Free.
The music video though starring the main actor of Notre Jour Viendra and being shot in similar locations is not taken from the movie, or has possibly been set aside during the final cut.
Sadly he will die in 2011. It is to be noticed that rarely an artist will bring so much praise after his death. The French Minister of Culture, international producers and bands such as Metronomy, Daft Punk, deadmau5 or Pharrell Williams will all have a positive and moving comment about the man.
Boss of the label Ed Banger Records, the man is keen on picking artists that will make it through.
He will even a full page dedicated to his work in the great fascinating Electrochoc book written by Laurent Garnier and David Brun-Lambert covering a large array of what happened on the electronic music scene from 1987 to 2013.
Uffie is American, yes, but she will boom in France. Here’s one of the main element of the success of the French Touch : being able to blend American and French vibes all together. The problem of the unpleasant, clumsy, artsy French accent which acted as a barrier to international broadcast has been solved in an efficient manner.
Vocals of Uffie on a musical production of French artist Feadz.
The trash-glam video supporting the music comes as an essential ingredient to the fame of this track. Bored hipster youth, burdened by a permanent hangover, cynical and attractive.
Ed Bangers’ stable is an efficient machine that will inspire or follow the good ideas of many label records. There is a community of dedicated joyful party-goers that can express their views ; there’s a visual design, a support from clothing brands, a booking agency with an important number of artists.
(THE NEW) CASSIUS
Far from the happy house tunes of the late 90’s, Cassius reinvented its music to fit the new trends and music genres.
I love U so signed on Ed Banger Records. As much successful because of the video, surfing on the hype geek iPhone technological display.
Cassius an electro-rock band ? Rather multi-genre and not blighted by hang-ups, the band will surf with success on the British inspired electro-rock wave.
ETIENNE DE CRECY
Long time present on the French stage. Etienne de Crécy is one of the most versatile and industrious producers of the electronic scene. Major name of the French Touch, already known through his Super Discount project in 1996, Monsieur de Crécy gets critics appraisals and international with his Cube project, something that will be copied and developped further by Amon Tobin for his ISAM project.
MISS KITTIN&THE HACKER
Founder of the electroclash movement of the 90’s, they both finally boomed a decade later and got out of the underground scene. Some might prefer them at their beginning, but it would be to deprive an artist the right to evolve and to refine his/her music.
Perhaps because it was too early in the 90’s, they both got difficulties to get a real name on the French scene. Spotted by Dj Hell, Miss Kittin will make herself famous in Berlin, but in 2005 she reaches, a few years after the release of her First Album (with The Hacker) international fame via the release of her set at Barcelona’s Sonar festival.
After having started his career under several monikers Vitalic reaches immediate fame with the release of his 4-track Poney EP which includes the dark, aggressive and terribly attractive La Rock 01 banger.
This track will go on and on in all major electro-rock clubs and will land into the As Heard on Radio Soulwax pt.2 release of the 2 many Dj’s.
A NEW AESTHETICS
Whereas the first French Touch wave was much looking up at American standards and myths, the second wave lurs onto Japon, animated movies and mangas (France is the second country in the world to read mangas).
BIRDY NAM NAM
Some may regret the funny talented DIY crew of the beginning, using samples and great Dj skills to create repetitive mesmerizing tunes.
After Justice got their hands onto the production process, indeed the sound dramatically changed to get closer to an aggressive-branded French-house.
Inspired by René Laloux “Les Maîtres du Temps” (Time Masters) 1982 animation film.
And Druillet’s artwork :
STUCK IN THE SOUND
Brilliant release from a brilliant band with a non-less brilliant video.
The band released its first album in 2004 but it is in 2012 with Pursuit that the band reaches a larger fame with the song Brother which will be remixed by Yuksek, Panteros666 and Juveniles.
Referring to 80’s cartoon Ulysse 31 and Lovecraft‘s Cthulhu :
Music producer and former bass player for Joakim with numerous works signed on Tigersushi.
References to Japan animation (Urotsukidoji)
(the clip is what it is, right ? Don’t watch it if you get offended)
The American paradisiac life has been totally left aside, to the benefit of a vivid, hyperactive and kitsch universe mixing revivals of old movies, cartoons and animated films. This new French Touch is directly related to the Geek attitude, digging and praising a supposedly non-mainstream culture (but we all know that Geeking has become mainstream for ages now).
Music composer, sound engineer, movie director and score composer. This discreet man was however clearly noticed with his track Dundun-dun.
With a few productions dispatched over almost fifteen years Kavinsky managed to impose his style a blend of 80’s melancholic music, reviving the electronic of that period, he touched the sensibility of the people raised to eighties aesthetics : luxury racing cars, Vangelis, Miami Vice, American teenager sports outfits and more. Green in the Shakespearian way and nostalgic, it is the perfect fit to the contemplative atmosphere of Drive.
The images used to construct Kavinsky’s universe are quite eloquent in the way that this new French Touch is made of recycled influences that nurtered French kids of the 80’s. Magnum P.I, the Testarossa produced in 1984, the college and highschool varsity jackets we could see in Saved by the Bell, the music of Miami Vice played by Jan Hammer, the movie Class of 1984… everything from that period and that specific year was mixed and molded into a weird creature, a kind of Frankenstein’s creature of the 80’s.
Robin Coudert a.k.a Rob started his musical career in 1998, throughout his connections he colaborated with Sébastien Tellier and Phoenix, but finally his true success comes from his work as a film music composer, among which Maniac (starring Elijah Wood) and Horns (directed by Alexandre Aja).
QUENTIN DUPIEUX AKA MR. OIZO
Mr. Oizo is also Quentin Dupieux. Insane film director with insane ideas that brought up the funny movies Rubber and Steak (where Kavinsky has the main support role) and Wrong Cops (featuring Marilyn Manson). Scoring on his own movies Mr. Oizo really displays the array of the French Touch notion.
(the new) DAFT PUNK
A sound more electronic, gritty distorted melodic synths. I haven’t seen Tron – i didn’t dig the idea of a remake -, and even though the soundtrack is not my thing, i find here a more daring and experimental work from the duo with the symphonic dark ambience.
Certainly because of their talent, but also because they belong to that pre-conceived idea of elaborated chic and intellectual, the duo will sign the score of The Virgin Suicides, a non-less elaborated film by Sofia Coppola.
From these two waves fairly noticeable as labelled French Touch new artists have emerged on the musical scene completing the loop referring the the first artists of this trend. However the French Touch branding is less used to promote these new artists.
Using his great talent as a composer Cascadeur has something of an eleborated AIR (Ladyday), with long sophisticated piano lines and orchestral arrangements. The electronic part though discreet is still present.
Head of Bromance Records with Manu Barron (his producer). Spending half of his time in the States, Brodinski has become the flagship of the new electro generation, it is not any longer just about music, everything is developped simultaneously : the brand image, the music, the video. Psychotic, teenage and chaotic with a pinch of mysticism. Brodinski always explained that part of his talent came from bloggers who got an interest in his music, he referred to this young generation being able to use a social tool like Myspace to do something out it before it was too late because overused. Humbly this successful man never considered him a good music producer but rather as an artistic director picking and elaborating something out the different works of his collaborators. He is also certainly the man that made a few things possible. Evil Nine‘s Black Brad Pitt certainly made its way to success because of Brodinski.
It’s normal then to mention Club Cheval who produced a huge amount of sounds for Brodinski.
And Louisahhh member of the same label : Bromance Records.
Signed on EMI Music France, this talented French producer developed an image of elegance and smartness that reminds actors of the 60’s. Close friend to Brodinski, you’ll often find them together on stage. Because of his young age, because of the young age of his audience, because electro music has now a long past, Gesaffelstein could pick up sounds from the dissident electro-clash movement and shed the light on its early or more recent productions.
Former members of the band The Film, Guillaume Brière and Benjamin Lebeau created The Shoes in 2007. Popular very quickly and benefiting from collabs from many international musicians and producers. Most of their success will however come from their videos, especially Time to Dance (available on the EP Buy The Time to Dance) directed by Daniel Wolfe and featuring Jake Gyllenhaal that will be backed up by Bret Easton Ellis.
The clothing store and label certainly occupies an extremely important place. Blending different genres, surfing on the hipster fashion, rather connecting the French population to Japanese culture
Phoenix the very image of success that every French band tries to reach. This image of success is more of a classic, “we did it.” It is close in its process to the fame of Brodinski in France. A success flavoured with Glam, intellectual pride, with the glitter of the gossip magazine as Thomas Mars, leader of Phoenix married Sofia Coppola a few years ago.
So here we are. The electronic French Touch as a social engineering phenomenon, self-centered, teenage&nostalgic, gothic and mildly self-destructive. A phenomenon with multiple branches, able to feed on different types of models and inspirations, all co-existing at the very same time thanks to the internet ecosphere. Whereas a few years ago the term French Touch was related to a music extracted from the disco house played in Parisian venues, nowadays every music played by a French can federated under the French Touch branding as long as there’s some glam and a little trash gossip thing in it (the more the better). An image of success, of past good moments, embellished souvenirs of something that has somehow never really been is sold (rather than given) to the young generation, that however has this ability to create something sometimes appealing and inspiring even if the base, the raw material is not really sound.
Why didn’t i mention some names ? Because by no means i wanted to do an exhaustive list of all the French producers. The imagery and social engineering interested me, and yes that is true i certainly forgot some (Mondkopf, Dj Cam, Dimitri from Paris, St Germain, …). Others got in the business via another process (to my mind), I, for example do not think that Laurent Garnier or Galliano made their way on international scene following this path. After reading Garnier’s book Electrochoc , that feeling got really stronger. The man couldn’t accept this “froggy Dj” image and always tried to establish his fame on the international scene via his hardwork and a lot of patience. The first wave of the French Touch referred to the 70’s, the second one to the 80’s and benefited moreover of this new step in civilization that is Internet.
The French Touch is not just musical again, it penetrates every genre. Kourtrajmé collective led by Romain Gavras realized videos for M.I.A, Kayne West and Jay Z. So Me – that i already mentioned -, directed the videos of Kid Kudi, Duck Sauce, Major Lazer and other big names of the music industry.
Oh yes David G… i forgot him… damn i can be so irrespectful sometimes…
But no always. Having watched recently a report on Arte.tv about the French festival Les Vieilles Charrues – which is one of the most popular music festivals in France (even in Europe when you check the set lists) -, David Guetta walking out of stage after his show (that is in 2011) said something right about him, i mention it juggling my memory (fast translation) : “the organizers said it was going to be a potential miss but the people were right here into it, i had one of my best times on stage and i proved those who critized me that i had my place…”