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La Femme
Mystère Jeremy Allen , September 13th, 2016 20:14

La Femme hail from Biarritz, an ancient whaling town 22 miles from the Spanish border, that these days is to surfing and tourism what Clacton is to Brexit. Naturally they upped sticks and left for the cynosure of activity that is Paris, but the title of their 2013 debut album - Psycho Tropical Berlin - is indicative of where the true roots of their music lie; indeed La Femme are to all intents and purposes a krautrock band.

Krautrock is reductive of course, like most generic genre labelling is, because their sound is multifaceted, kaleidoscopic and at times psychedelic. Nevertheless, it’s infused with a motorik energy that propels it onward and upward. There’s nothing dour about their approach, which is certainly the case for all to see in the live arena. It’s dance music that doesn’t take itself too seriously, which may segregate La Femme from their sterner contemporaries. Musical apartheid aside, they’ve impressively harnessed runaway rhythms and subjugated them and manipulated them to their own ends. They’re a band that are in complete control, and who can luxuriate in the fact they sound like no one else. They’re certainly a party band, but to be fair, there’s a lyrical depth that may not be immediately apparently, especially if your first language isn’t French.

La Femme’s second album Mystère continues where Psycho Tropical Berlin left off, though it is a more sophisticated affair, and perhaps more subdued too (though that’s no bad thing). There’s still room for the surf rock antics of the impossible catchy ‘Où va le monde’, but on tracks like ‘Septembre’, there’s a definite sense of foreboding as summer ends and the season changes. Opener ‘Sphinx’ too, has an enigmatic, ethereal quality, a wave of beautiful melody riding an undulating, glacial synth underneath. ‘S.S.D’ recounts a debauched night out in Strasbourg Saint-Denis that involves - in no particular order - a hooker, pissing in an elevator, a head perched over porcelain ready to chunder, and some wandering around at 3am having lost all of the protagonist’s friends. There’s a deliberate emptiness to it, that appears to be more about going through the motions than having fun. Meanwhile ‘Tueur de fleurs’ takes a Baudelairian theme and makes it more deadly and decadent.

There are plenty of up moments too. ‘Tatiana’ chunters along at an alacritous pace with breaks of expansive, psychotropic noise, ‘Conversations Nocturnes’ has a Moroder-like pulse running through it with stabs of wild orchestration, while Clémence Quélénnec delivers her irresistible sprechgesang flow on the exquisite ‘Exorciser’.

Les Inrocks recently ran a feature on La Femme describing them as “turbulent et insaisissable, sensuel et érudit” (turbulent and elusive, sensual and erudite), and said they are “the musical flower of a country that would do well to emulate their energy and youth”. Part of that vitality comes from their willingness to emulate music that isn’t immediately indigenous. Like so many modern bands, they’re not to be pinned down geographically, unless of course we’re talking European, they’re every inch that.