BIPP: French Synth Wave 79-85 (Born Bad Records) 2006. As we all know, at some point in the late 1970′s, musicians who had first become enamoured with the idea of “punk rock”, and all the freedom that term brought with it, started feeling constrained by the very thing that had liberated them. At its core, punk rock was about stripping music down to pure, primal energy. The visual aesthetics that accompanied punk rock were based largely in the rejection of the 1960s. Sorry folks…it’s true.
And for a few years that was all anybody needed. Everyone wanted to shake off the early 1970′s. It was a point on which this huge pool of disenfranchised musicians could agree upon. But at some point, the animals couldn’t tell pig from man anymore, and folks started rebelling against the self-imposed restrictions that punk brought. As the liner notes of BIPP puts it, “NO FUTURE was the motto of an art form without a cause that no longer echoed the mind-set of the time.”
So this is the point where the story gets kinda interesting….
Cuz when this pool of musicians started breaking their own rules, shit went in 100,000 different directions at once. Most of the directions were at the very least, interesting and at best, revolutionary and super-cool. The synthesizer, an instrument that suffered intense amounts of physical abuse at the hands of Rich Wakeman and Keith Emerson, suddenly became an interesting option for aspiring artists.
France was no different than anywhere else. The synthesizer was adopted by a loose conglomeration of artists and between 79-85, the music that is on BIPP: French Synth Wave, was recorded and released. Unlike the cold, industrial, British music of The Human League or the clean, German, futurism of Kraftwerk, French Synth Wave was a uniquely French approach to synth music that the liner notes of BIPP define correctly as “retro-futurist elegance”.
The earliest tracks on BIPP cover the post-punk fallout quite well. Both A Trois Dans Les WC and Act for instance, come from that time and place. I have included Ping Pong by Act below. It’s all jittery, jumpy, hyper-nervous new wave. The beat is pogo-worthy and the guitars are still very evident in the mix (as well as cowbell!). Conversely, the last track on the CD by Busy P points definitively towards the house and club cultures of the late 1980′s. This is the continuum that BIPP exists in and it works really well.
In the middle of this continuum exists Marie Moor with Pretty Day. Gone are the guitars in Ping Pong. Even the drums are synthetic. Besides Marie’s nihilistically, coquettish vocals, the only other organic instrument in the mix is a possible saxophone. Really, it could even be false. Both punk rock and house culture are mere blips on the radar at this point occupying a long, lost point of origin and a distant destination that has not been discovered. What do I know? I was listening to hardcore. Unbeknownst to me, Marie Moor was halfway around the world occupying a synthetic no-man’s land between generations and genres. I was drinking Milwaukee’s Best. Ah well….
Ruth also occupies this moment in time but expands upon it a bit by adding the kind of flourishes I have come to expect from good, French music. We have this excellent dual female vocal approach, one of which is cold and robotic and the other, which is warm and sensual. We get two verses with an occasional synthetic horn flourish and then BLAMMO at 2:19, a synthetic drum roll and we are hit with this hyper-melancholic violin/horn line. Then, the sensual female vocals come back in and the bell goes off in your head because you get it.
The music on BIPP is inherently melancholic. It’s not going to make you want to take over the world or go bar-hopping. It’s gonna make you want to chain smoke cigarettes and lie on your couch. It’s rainy day music of the best kind. It has just recently been released in the US on the Everloving Label. Do yourself a favour and check it out.
A Trois Dans Les WC-Contagion
The Act – Ping Pong
Les Visiteurs Du Soir – Je T’Ecris D’un Pays
Vox Dei – Terroriste
Comix – Touche Pas Mon Sexe
TGV – Partie 1
CKC – 20H25
Marie Moor – Pretty Day
Deux – Game and Performance
Ruth – Polaroid/Roman/Photo
Vitor Hublot – Aller Simple
Visible Le – Jour Se Leve
Casino Music – Viol Af Dis
Busy P – Rainbow Man