THE BEGINNING

With DJ Hero hot on the heals of its guitar sibling, French house looks set to continue its reign in electro cool

With DJ Hero hot on the heals of its guitar sibling, French house looks set to continue its reign in electro cool

Since the robot-shaped beginnings of modern French electro in the early 1990’s, the genre has enjoyed a surging renaissance these last few years. From Daft Punk to Etienne De Crecy, Busy P to Alan Braxe – hell, let’s even throw chart limpet David Guetta in there – French house/dance/electro carries a contemporary, unrivalled va-va-voom. And while Daft Punk have deservedly achieved global, corporate branding to go with their pioneering sound, the advent of a new wave of DJs and labels carrying more than a tinge of the tricolour have been keeping indie kids dancing since it was decided dance music was cool again. After all, gargantuan LED pyramids and DJ Hero empires aren’t built overnight.

Both Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo earned their spurs in a burgeoning French house party scene and were arguably as much the beneficiaries of an upturn in interest in the UK dance scene as they were supremely talented talismans for the current halcyon era. Of course, the more intimate shindigs soon became a distant glint in a robot’s visor after ‘Homework’ hit the shelves, but as building blocks go, they really didn’t come much bigger. Fast forward through ‘Stardust’, ‘Discovery’ and endless commercial chart success, the founding of both the Kitsun√© and Ed Banger labels, the underground tech-cool of Ivan Smagghe, the stellar work of Laurent Garnier and Cassius, and you arrive headlong into a contemporary wealth of DJs, producers and artists responsible for pushing boundaries and genres over the last four years.

A quick collation of the two heavyweight labels and any half arsed visit to Beatport would throw up Justice, SebastiAn, DJ Mehdi, Feeds, Mr Ouzo and Vicarious Bliss‚”(sic). Grace any club night, music festival or warehouse party worth its exorbitant flyer costs, and there’s a high chance there’ll be some French fingers involved, even if it’s only heavy track rotation.

So, apart from the obvious Parisian cool of Kitsun√© and the eternally eclectic Ed Banger flying the flag, just why is the current crop of French fancies flowing from the Seine’s catchment area so unremittingly cool? Well, it’s because French house has become the blanket term for discriminating guitar kids looking to get their rocks off. That might suggest that any arrondissement dweller could feasibly rake in the cultural and social kudos, but the real kicker lies in the fact that in over 10 years, the output hasn’t lost an iota of its progressive, ingenious brilliance. Sure some of the Ed Banger crew’s cut and thrust can sometimes reduce a dance floor to a perplexed, schizophrenic mess, but in a toss up between being inadvertently knocked unconscious to the soundtrack of obscure Euro disco or being knocked unconscious at your average Saturday night club, I’d choose pretension over piss ups anytime.

Over a decade later, to its credit, French dance music hasn’t had to trade on the name of its two favourite sons to sustain itself. Sure, the pomp and fanfare is amped up a few levels with the slightest mention of anything DP-related, but the genre itself carries a discerning seal of quality long passed over from the early 90’s.
In the age of crossover, French house can evolve into electro for the superclub crowds and the abrasive, electro-house for any beer soaked warehouse party dance floor. Depending on the party, though, you might pick up Kavinsky’s phaser-splicin’ homages to 80’s disco, Justice’s gnarly, leather clad electro cock-rock, the warped, twisted beats of Mr. Oizo, or the eternally safe house bounce of early Daft Punk and never be disappointed. With the current fascination for crashing guitars against BPM, skewing synths with strings, and giving disco a drum pummelling edge, it’s easy to compromise the simple things in the quest for the precocious. Well, it is unless you’ve got that je ne sais quoi.

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