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Rockfort: Your French Music Roundup For July & August
David McKenna , August 9th, 2018 10:44

Do you want to listen to and read about all the best French music from the last couple of months? OUI, of course you do. Allez tout droit for Juniore, nOx.3 & Linda Olàh, Zooey and more

August is a quiet time for French releases, but I’ve wound back several months to pick up the nOx.3 & Linda Olàh album and a few others, and finish up with a couple of soundtracks to heat-induced languor from Laure Briard and Zooey. Also in the mix: a Franco-Italian collaboration between Philippe Petit (see June’s column) and Dagger Moth; the latest release on the ever-excellent Standard In-Fi from Zizi (members of France, Tanz Mein Herz and Le Vin du Solitaire larking about somewhere in Saint Etienne in 2013); an excerpt from Oiseaux-Tempête’s recent live release Tarab, recorded while they were touring their Al-‘An ! album; some bombastic Body Music from Usé and a tranquil excerpt from Eddie Ladoire & Mathias Delplanque’s Cypressat / Seguinaud, which incorporates field recordings from two parks in Bordeaux.

Juniore - Magnifique (Outré)

This first release on new UK label Outré is a mini Best Of and intro to the band, which at it core is Anna Jean (daughter of French writer JMG Le Clézio) and producer Samy Osta, who plays with the live band dressed as a Death-like figure ‘The Thing’, but is also an in-demand producer for the likes of La Femme. Comparisons with that artist are inevitable, but whereas La Femme are stylistic magpies, Juniore are laser-focused on their garage/yé-yé aesthetic. They seem expressly built to delight a certain type of Francophile pop fan, all those cool 60s, Nouvelle Vague-y signifiers perfectly arrayed (see also The Limiñanas), Anna Jean’s vocals set at just the right level of emotional detachment, and song titles that are like pop art slogans. That might be an issue if the execution wasn’t so brutally effective. ‘Panique’, which as we speak is getting a serious 6 Music airplay, is the exemplar: pretty much bang on three-and-half-minutes long, feels like it’s over in two, tight as a drum and catchy as hell. Anna Jean and Samy Osta slot all the pieces together as precisely as if they were constructing a techno track.

Rattling pace is Juniore’s forte, as the title track and only new recording ‘Magnifique’ confirms, but the slower ‘Difficile’ has a tougher edge and there are more laid-back moments too in ‘À La Plage’ and ‘Ça Balance’. Another key aspect of Juniore’s make-up is the fairground whirl of the organ, which adds an agreeably goofy, B-movie tinge to most tracks.

Various Artists - C’est Extra – 13 Reprises de Léo Ferré (Méridian/La mémoire et la mer)

Part of the (male) Holy Trinity of French chanson, Léo Ferré is defined in Jonathyne Briggs’s 2015 book Sounds French as ‘The Artist’ – alongside Jacques Brel ‘The Actor’ and Georges Brassens ‘The Poet’ – because of what Briggs describes as an “unease with the concept of popular music itself, wanting both to burst through its commercial character and elevate it into a higher art.” That attitude only squares to a degree with the indie/DIY ethos of the La Souterraine collective, who curated this album of covers; this collection prefers to focus on the idea of Ferré as an independent spirit - taboo-breaker, anarchist, eccentric – as well as a writer of “tender, frank love songs”.

The compilation features some familiar names in the La Souterraine’s sphere – Aquaserge’s ‘Si tu t’en vas’ is predictably excellent, both wistful and funky, Julien Gasc’s takes a freaky, fuzzy tilt at ‘Les Pop’ and Maud Octallinn sounds suitably unruly on ‘La mauvaise graine’. P.r2b, whose name - if I have this right - is a play on the word ‘perturbé’ (perturbed), opens the album with a slithering electro-torch take on ‘Tu ne dis jamais rien’, her vocals sitting somewhere between Fishbach and Robi.

Psych pop tropes dominate but, lovely as they are in the hands of Sarah Maison and Forever Pavot, it’s Aurore Chevalier who supplies one of the most convincing re-imaginings. A spoken word performer herself, she is well placed to approach Ferré as “France’s first popular spoken word artist”, and her warped, jazzy hip-hop version of ‘Les Vitrines’ – which at once mocks and revels in the consumer parade – seems appropriate to a song in which Ferré namechecked himself rather as an MC might.

Florian Pellissier Quintet - Bijou Voyou Caillou (Heavenly Sweetness)
& nOx.3 & Linda Olàh - Inget Nytt (Ilona)

Two very different facets of France’s jazz scene. Bijou Voyou Caillou is the Florian Pellissier Quintet’s fourth album, still bearing the distinctive blue, black and white artwork that graced the precious three Heavenly Sweetness releases but ranging more widely than ever. Aside from this group, pianist Pellissier has played with jazz funk outfit Cotonete, hip hop producer Guts, Latin soul group Setenta, recently revived samba-soul veteran Di Melo and British-Trinidadian UK artist and poet Anthony Joseph (who also guests on the bobbing, jagging ‘Boca’), and this set demonstrates his versatility while retaining a core of accessible melodicism and infectious groove-making.

Even when they’re dipping into more staple 60s US influences, there’s usually something sharp and modern in the band’s delivery that feels inspired by hip hop and dance music, or there will be something interesting going on texturally too, as with the smeared counter-melodies in the opening of ‘Colosse de Rhodes’. There’s also an impish humour and insolence at play, notable in the decision to label laid-back opener ‘Fuck With The Police.’ As well as Joseph, Arthur H, grizzled crooner (and son of the recently deceased Jacques Higelin), contributes to two slower numbers, while ‘Jazz Carnival’ is a joyous, almost house-ified cover of Brazilian band Azymuth’s 1979 hit. It inspired club-like scenes at the climax of a Church of Sound show last year.

nOx.3 & Linda Olàh’s Inget Nytt was released in February of this year, but the four-piece have just come off a show at Manchester Jazz Festival and will be playing Dublin’s cutting-edge jazz festival 12 Points in September. Theirs feels like a more distinctly European proposition – singer Olàh, though now based in France, is Swedish. She studied at the Conservatoire de Paris with the similarly minded compatriot Isabel Sörling, and both have (among other projects) become the fourth members of French three-pieces (for Sörling it’s Bribes 4) that play across the frontiers of jazz, experimental electronics and left-field rock, happily deploying FX to plug themselves into the noise. The album successfully balances melodic sweetness – the stretch in the album’s latter third, featuring ‘Lucid Dream’, ‘Amiaman’ and ‘Longtemps’, is very pretty indeed – austere elegance and near-industrial blitzes. Most impressive is ‘L’horizon’, which half-way though suddenly takes off at a whomping, disco punk-y gallop.

Jardin - ÉPÉE (Le Turc Mecanique)

‘Épée’ means sword in French, and Jardin’s Léney Bernay does often seem determined to brandish sounds (including his voice) as weapon, to ensure that indifference on the part of the listener is not an option. ÉPÉE follows up an album called Post-Capitalist Desires and is again on Le Turc Mécanique, a natural home for an artist specialising in crud-covered beats and punky ferocity. If the targets are vague and/or predictable (titles include ‘Control is Invisible’), musically this is Bernay’s most nuanced set, a mix of RnB, Cabaret Voltaire and ghetto house that also delivers moments of sinuous grace and very consciously opens up a feminine perspective on a track featuring a certain ‘Eve’ called ‘Female Voice Enter’.

Zooey - Inspiration Information (self-released)
& Laure Briard - Coração Louco (Midnight Special)

Zooey are London-based couple Marie Merlet and Matthieu Beck; Merlet was in Monade with Laetitia Sadier and other projects include Lisbonne (also with Beck) and the surfy Iko Cherie, while Beck formerly played bass player for arty rockers Adam Kesher.

Following debut album The Drifters, Inspiration Information is an EP exploring musical influences – covers of Caetano Veloso, Aretha Franklin, Neil Young and Anne Briggs, but sometimes ‘inspired’ by the approaches of other musicians. The version of Franklin’s ‘Land Of My Dreams’, for example, is inspired by Factory Records/Les Disques Du Crepuscule artist Anna Domino, but ‘Transformer Man’ stays true to the synth pop approach of Young’s divisive Trans album.

Zooey’s world is the never-never land of the pop aesthete, where girl groups, Brazilian sounds, orch-pop, synth pop and jangly indie fuse into an ‘ideal’ pop music. Inspiration Information is a short, sugary dose (that includes an extended mix of ‘Transformer Man’), but then the coda to ‘Ride, Ride’ - a self-composed tune called ‘Fin Du Travail, Vie Magique’ and “inspired by the recent protests in the streets and fields of France” – suggests that there’s a transformative, situationist slant to their dreaming.

Coração Louco is the best release yet from Laure Briard, who is similarly steeped in 60s-isms and equally drawn to Brazilian pop. In Briard’s case, she’s gone one step further and headed to Brazil and the Mestre Feline studio near São Paulo to record with local act Boogarins. The EP was also produced by the band’s Benke Ferraz.

The links between Brazilian music and chanson are well-established, from Pierre Barouh’s Samba Saravah, adapted from Vinicius de Moraes’s Samba Da Bensao and contributing largely to the popularity of bossa nova in the France, France Gall tunes like ‘Le premier chagrin d’amour’ and ‘Y’a du soleil à vendre’ through Françoise Hardy’s career-best album La Question and on. More unusually, Briard wrote the majority of the lyrics, and sings them, in Portuguese.

The EP shares Boogarin’s psyched out approach, which sometimes recalls Tame Impala, to Brazilian pop, both in love with bossa and happily pulling it apart at the seams. In ‘Numa Fria Noite’ in particular, the structure is stretched until the song’s sections seem to be held together by the finest of threads.

Rockfort Quietus Mix 13 Dagger Moth & Philippe Petit – ‘Ovaries’ (Jelodanti); nOx.3 & Linda Olàh – ‘L’horizon’ (Ilona); Aurore Chevalier – ‘Vitrines’ (La Souterraine); Florian Pellissier Quintet – ‘Colosse de Rhodes’ (Heavenly Sweetness); Laure Briard – ‘Numa Fria Noite’ (Midnight Special); Eddie Ladoire & Mathias Delplanque – ‘Seguinaud 5’ (Bruit Clair); Zizi – Extract from Zizi ‘A’ (Standard In-Fi); Juniore – ‘Ça Balance’ (Outré); Zooey – ‘Land Of My Dreams’ (N/A); Jardin – ‘Female Voice Enter ft Eve’ (Le Turc Mecanique); Usé – ‘Cardiaque’ (Born Bad); Oiseaux-Tempête – ‘Carnaval’ (Sub Rosa)