If there’s two things I love it is synthesizers and the french. I’m an unapologetic francophile (as George Michael Bluth says, I like the way they think). Thankfully for me the french also love synthesizers. A couple of days ago a friend of mine passed along a compilation to me knowing that these two fact about myself. BIPPP (French Synthwave 1979-85 is pretty much what the title implies, French synth-based new-wave from the alotted tme period. The great thing about French music is that it somehow has the ability to walk the fine line between lecherous and beautiful. Recent acts like Sebastien Tellier and TTC, as well as non-french groups like Hot Chip, Midnight Juggernauts and Chromatics, owe a great deal to these folks. So let us take a look at a few of the key tracks and where some of the sounds on this record have landed today.
The songs on this comp run the gamut of what kinda of music can be produced on synths. Some of it is spunkier, like most of the whole new wave crowd, but a lot of it is pretty french, by which I mean moody and wistful sounding. What really pleases me on this album is that they weren’t making any bones about the whole synthesizer thing. A great deal of early synth music was based around the idea that realistic sounding instruments can be produced out of this all-in-one piano keyboard. Frankly, that just isn’t the fun thing about the instrument. The joy of the synthesizer is that it can make a great deal of noise that really sounds unlike any other instrument. At that early stage, a lot of professional musicians were totally worried about losing their jobs to theses damn things. As an even more recent example, WIRE’s drummer even fired himself from the band in 1990, believing drum machines had made him obsolete. (He came back eventually) Once people embraced the full capabilities of the instrument and realised that it wasn’t necessarily in competition with them everyone got back into their normal grooves.
Kraftwerk are credited for really pioneering entirely electronic music, a fact I wouldn’t disagree with. On the other hand, one band makes a novelty not a movement. It takes a lot of people and bands to really flesh out an idea. This compilation presents a great document of what was happening on the french side of things. It wasn’t all Germans.
First up are just a couple songs to get you started. “Polaroid-Roman-Photo” by Ruth is easily one of my favorites on this thing. I love the interplay between the cold synths and the horns that build throughout the song. Also on deck is “Partie 1” by TGV, a more new-wave style workout.
Next up is “Touch Pas Mon Sexe” by Comix, a busy synth-punk song which has some totally fantastic tones in it. Recently Busy P sampled this for his single “Rainbow Man” which take the first three seconds of the original and masterfully drives things home.
Finally, a song by Deux called “Game and Performance,” a moody call-and-response number between a male and female singer sung in heavily accented English. I’m following this with “Hands in the Dark” by Chromatics which comes from the “After Dark” comp put out by the label Italians Do It Better. As the label’s name implies, the bands on it are heavily influenced by the oft-blogged about Italo-Disco genre, but the the dark beats and late 70’s feel show a lot of influence from this scene.
I really do love synths…a lot.