Liberté, Egalité, Poils Aux Tétés
I cannot say France had a major infatuation for House Music and Techno like England and Germany had, or even like Belgium. We always seem to be stuck in a country where Claude François is still one of the most played artists in clubs, 40 years after his death. But thanks to the everlasting enthusiasts from the first days and the raging fans, we managed to have by waves, venues trusting artists spreading the words of wisdom House Music and Techno have to offer, in all of its various forms.
Honestly, I used to hate Techno as a kid, and deeply thought House Music was what was served on the popular radio back in the 90's, under the name of "dance" (eeeeeewwww). So you can imagine how much of a shock I had when that 17 years old freshly out of my summer job, started to get serious about wanting to become a DJ, and entered a tiny shop in Antibes asking for Hip Hop and Reggae (which back then was what I wanted to play), and got served that orange record looking old and filthy, but pretty attractive still.
I was told to somehow always trust record store owners in their ability to make you discover things, so I decided to give it a go (I mean... was I really gonna look at the picture and say "no thanks!"?).
It felt like going to a grocery store, and being given the bag of Pringles you were looking for in a square package, with 300% bonus. All of what I was searching for was there, with 300% more groove, and an extended sense of deepness. These chords, those strings, that groove, these drums, got my heart immediately hooked on this genre I did not know, and guided my passion for the years to come.
That record changed my life, and almost made me fall into tears when I accidentally told that to a record store owner 15 years later, who happened to be the owner of the label back then... I love these coincidences.
It's a happy september day of 2002, and I find with my fresh new ears to Electronic Music, that the soul culture had shifted to an underground version which I wasn't aware of at that time, especially due to what was played on the radio back then. I felt like I had been poisoned by smart people for so many years slowly enough not to be aware of it. How could I go without this for so long? How come I never knew about this? I would do something about it to never let that happen again, and dedicate a large part of my time, money and headspace to it.
Paris is Deep
2013, as years went by, I finally took the leap and decided to move to Paris. During my first night out at the boiling Rex rammed to the door, while being completely hypnotized by D'julz and later on by King Ricardo Villalobos, I heard dear friend Gabriel Belabbas put his hand on my shoulder and say "Welcome Home!". A new Home. A Home where I finally hear House Music being played in a club, REAL House Music, like the REAL DEAL, almost for the first time in my life. People getting down on the things I was dancing on to at home alone, and thought were too old or not entertaining enough for a crowd. I saw people dying for music. Surviving through the week just to be able to have their ears delighted in the weekend by those they worship. And I felt the powerful bond Paris had with House Music in all of its forms. I finally started to understand what French Electronic Music was, when it was given from the proper hands and ears, and to the proper crowd.
I felt what Laurent Garnier was talking about in his book, the enthusiasm people had in France for Electronic Music back then which was still alive, and moreover understood the reason behind his desire to promote the tracks made in France (as Synchrophone also does).
From Place de l'Etoile to République, from Rex to Djoon or Badaboum, you cannot go wrong in a DJ set by playing Deep House. Even Paris's Hip Hop culture showed an immense tribute to the deepness in its sound (hear it for yourself in this song). The Paris vision of Deep House is exporting itself flawlessly as still today Pepe Bradock brings the crowd to tears every single time this gets played anywhere in the world. Far away from filtered French Touch aging like a Beverley Hills lady hangin on tight to the botox needle, these songs inspired by genius sampling the hidden gems of some of the greatest soul artists from 70's and 80's, challenging the laws of space and time.
Paris knows deepness as Charles Aznavour knew show business, and Gainsbourg knew where to get a night cap.
Paris Is Soulful
2003 saw the birth of an EP that "could have been the origin of a new genre", according to Arno E. Mathieu (Clima Records) : Dj Gregory - Elle.
"Alain Delon" as Gregory likes to name it , in reference to what is to me the ONE french movie you have to see. The track was re-released in special package a couple of times, and to be honest I couldn't resist to put it down in my selection for those unaware of the existence of this beauty.
Same year, Afshin Assadian founded Djoon, one of the warmest sound system equiped venue in Paris, which became the one spot dedicated to Soulful in Paris. Deepening the connection between Paris, New York, Chicago, Detroit, and South Africa, Djoon influenced and gave a highway for the Paris vision of Deep House to express itself.
One of their podcast with Prosumer is kept in my hard drive as one of the best Deep mixes of all time.
You said Djoon? Real tone comes back running. One of the most prolific period for the label and its artists, and one of the most powerful residency the club had, with the Real Tone Radio Show very often recorded during those parties. A blessing. Pouring releases every month or so like rain in springtime, leveling up higher and higher as the time goes by, confirming the Paris signature for deepness (most of them available here).
And by the way, Franck Roger and Arno E. Mathieu have just put out this new EP on Real Tone, that reminds me so much of those beautiful days with a great sense of fresh air and that impeccable groove you find on most Real Tone Releases. In case you didn't know, i'm a fan of that shit.
Paris is Sharp & Smart
Let's go back in time a little, coming from this American influence, but getting closer to the German vision. Or maybe was it Germany being loyal to follow the American like they always did? Whatever.Logistic , another label Made In France, delivers in 1997 its first release of John Thomas, with a rather more minimalistic sound.
From Logistic will emerge Telegraph out of a desire to express the German influence flooding the ears of the world at the time, in 1999 (see? I told you, the Germans again!). In there, you might find the works of one of the most influencial musician French minimal music has had in its army : Cabanne.
Founder of Minibar, Cabanne is a long time running musician, who started as a jazz guitarist and got hooked on Electronic Music right at the beginning. Waving flawlessly somewhere in between House Music and Techno with a very strong abstract minimal identity, his music is before everything characterized by a sense of rhythm, a groove that no one else has been able to equal until now (to get the proof just listen to this album).
You feel Funk, Jazz, past, future and present in every single one of Minibar and Cabanne's releases, and I could not go past mentioning the extend of his influence on French Electronic Music, as the seeds he planted later helped labels such as Prospector, or Automatic Writing grow into a solid universe. They grew some of the strongest trees of the French Electronic Music forest, in which we still get lost 20 years later, in Paris or on the boad in Berlin.
(I highly recommend you read Cabanne's interview on Phonograph Corp right here - Fantastic read!)
Paris Is Up In The Sky / Under The Ground
Further up in 2000's, while the city is suffering from a political context which squeezes the nightlife like never before around 2008, people are still active in the anthill. Skylax (Hardrock Striker) never shifted his vision to please the ears of the evil trend,
delivering nothing else but his true soundscape to his ears of what Underground Music should be like in House Music, paying immense tribute to the originators of House Music with love and passion, on wax, defending the banners of #skylaxforever #bleublanchouse all over the web.
Now can we mention Chicago and Detroit without mentioning Gilb'r's contribution to Electronic Music with Versatile? Over 24 years of existence, Versatile made the synths sing and the voice of Electronic music be heard over the world with artists like i:Cube, Etienne Jaumet or Gilb'r himself as Chateau Flight (with i:Cube, again).
Whatever music you're into, something was out on this label for you to dance on.
Paris is France, But Is France Only About Paris?
This post was originally entitled after a country, and you might have realized I was probably only talking about Paris.
That definitely doesn't mean (that I come from there, nope) that French Electronic Music is limited to the capital city. But just like with Disco, French Electronic Music fans suffered all over the country from not living in the biggest spot in the world for their favorite music, let's admit it.
And though we music fans, feel the effort and appreciate the works of every soul in every city big or small, in every rave from north to south and from east to west, though we do our best to support promoters and artists as we can wherever we come from, Paris, in France, always leads the way to give a chance to emerging artists and movements, new or old, to provide for them a space and a pair of speakers for the voices to be heard, one way or another.
This post is subject to higher development over time and through many other posts, as French Artist's contribution to both House Music and Techno definitely cannot be limited to Paris only (or even to 10 tracks - WHAT A NIGHTMARE!), but I felt like this could represent a fair start, from my point of view of neutral non Parisian. I'll be on a mission here on Listen to make sure to pay tribute to every single one of the actors of the revolution that Electronic Music operated in France, within the next posts, without being too nationalist in times where one of our biggest challenge, is to open our minds.
I'll leave you to a selection of tracks out on Bandcamp (but not exclusively), and a Free Download from Narcotic Syntax as a the cherry on the cake :-)
Till we meet again
(ET VIVE LA FRANCE BORDEL)