Thursday, 27 September 2018

Les Rencontres Trans Musicales #Trans2018

With the days getting shorter and the weather getting colder, there's no denying winter is on its way. And with the change of the season we're looking ahead to the big event in December - Les Rencontres Trans Musicales in Rennes.

2018 marks the 40th edition of the festival that acts as a major showcase for some of the best developing artists. There is always a well-curated selection of acts from around the world, but there's always a solid presence of French artists. For many, an appearance at the Trans Musicales is the first major step in a career.

Recent years have seen performances by Benjamin Clementine, Jeanne Added, Stromae and Grand Blanc.

Fourteen names were released earlier this month, but another major tranche of artists have been added to the bill.

Among the French acts this year are rapper Disiz, electro act Dombrance, Ouai Stéphane, RexRegis, The Psychotic Monks, The YD and Venice Club.

From Canada there are francophone artists Hubert Lenoir and  Les Louanges and further afield come Franco-Chilean duo Nova Materia.

Local acts from Rennes and elsewhere in Brittany include Initials Bouvier Bernois, Fleuves.

Already announced are Aloïse Sauvage, Praa, Ryder The Eagle and  La Fraicheur.

I'll feature some of these acts in more detail in coming weeks. There are likely to be some memorable live sets this year.

This year's poster was designed by US artist Brendan Monroe. It's got to be one of the best so far.

The festival runs from December 5 to Sunday December 9.

Review: Jean-Michel Jarre - Planet Jarre

Do we need another Jean-Michel Jarre compilation?  The new multiple-disc selection Planet Jarre looks back on his 50 year music career, with something new, something old and a few rarities as well.

The collection is assembled in four themed sections: Soundscapes, Themes, Sequences and Explorations and Early Works, and Jarre's done a little bit of work remixing and tweaking the tracks for 21st century ears.

Soundscapes collects his more ambient works, with the first part of Oxygene opening the set. It showcases Jarre's breakthrough works, but with the focus on the less commercial tracks and works well.

There's a flavour of the more experimental edge of 70s prog rock running through this work. While he's credited as a major commercial artist, this selection - which covers material up to his 2016 Heart of Noise album - gives us the opportunity to re-assess his work in the context of a more artistic framework.

The second selection - Themes - contains some of his best-known work, with Oxygene 4 and Equinoxe 5 as well as Magnetic Fields 2 and laser harp number Rendez-Vous 2. You'll probably recognise them all, if there's a 'greatest hits' playlist in this collection, this is it.

 I'm not so keen on the tracks Zoolookologie and Bells, and while they've got their place in his body of work, to these ears the 80s synths have dated worse than much of his early work.

Sequences shows his work in a far more contemporary style of electronics. The new track Coachella Opening takes us right up to 2018, and others in this section such as Equinoxe 7 and 1982's Arpeggiator show that Jarre is no stranger to operating in the more dance oriented electronic area. I've always thought that given the right set, Jarre could blow the roof off an Ibiza mega club. Stardust, featuring Armen Van Buuren makes this case strongly.

The final selection Explorations and Early Works gathers some of his lesser known material, including early singles and pre-Oxygene soundtrack works. His debut single La Cage and Erosmachine as well as Hypnose and 1968's Happiness is a sad song all deserve to be on display again, as does the demo excerpt from his legendary Music for Supermarkets single-copy album.

Some may have preferred other rare material to appear, some of the tracks here featured on 2011's Essentials and Rarities collection, but that collection is itself now difficult to locate. This presents them in the way they deserve, held up alongside his most popular and artistically acclaimed work.
There's maybe yet a place for his early Deserted Palace album, early pseudonym singles and for the Dustbins to get their moment in the sun.

Throughout his career Jarre has done more than most to make electronic music popular and accessible, without it being artistically weak. From copies of Oxygene given away free with newspapers to his massive outdoor shows, he's always reached out to those who might give him a listen. Most have come away impressed. There's a generation who are now discovering his work through the current electronic artists, and this collection shows Jarre has been leading from the front for decades, and shows little sign of resting on past glories.

To answer the question in the first paragraph: Do we need another Jean-Michek Jarre compilation? Yes, actually we probably do.

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Review: Grand Blanc - Image au mur

I've said before that Grand Blanc are one of the acts I point to when I'm asked if French music actually does has anything to offer.

Their debut album, 2016's Mémoires vives was an assured collection of electro-flavoured rock, and even regular listening since doesn't diminish its impact. Tracks like Montparnasse are as jaw-dropping now as they were when I first heard them.

Wisely they didn't rush to make their debut, coming out as it did two years after their first EP. The time they spent perfecting their craft paid off, with both a memorable first album and a reputation as an impressive live act.

Image au mur doesn't feel like a second album by a band on an independent label. But Grand Blanc are more than a regular band, and Disques Enterprise - home of Fishbach, Bagarre and Moodoïd and other French language acts - punches far above its weight.

There's a lot going on in Image au mur, again you get the feeling they've thought things through, worked at it and allowed things to develop. There are moments of epic rock, like in Ailleurs, but they avoid it being empty gesture. There are thoughtful passages, like the REM flavoured Télévision, but it never gets too introspective.

The production of Image au mur provides an elegant stage for the voices of Benoît David and Camille Delvecchio. In the best tradition of Depeche Mode and New Order, for all their use of technology and electronics, there is a humanity at the core of Grand Blanc that lifts them.

Belleville perhaps continues a tendancy for songs named after quartiers of Paris, a punchy and immediately likeable song with a stylish and sharp Paris punk flavour. Los Angeles a serious slice of electro pop and Rêve BB Rêve a nod perhaps to Depeche Mode and to New York electro-punk pioneers Suicide. Ailleurs might start with a 60s French pop feel, but soon moves into a widescreen epic place, before returning to more Cocteau Twins dreamscape.

Image au mur comes out not long after Grand Blanc supported French rock veterans Indochine at dates in arenas around France and beyond. Listening to the album, you can imagine the same respect and longevity ahead for Grand Blanc.

Mylène Farmer: Live dates in 2019

With the new album by Mylène Farmer on the immediate horizon, radio station Europe 1 say that she will be playing a series of a series of live concerts in 2019.

Europe 1 say that Mylène Farmer will play ten shows at the Paris La Défense arena in Nanterre on the west of Paris.

The Paris La Défense arena is a stadium that can hold 40,000 people when its being used for live concerts.  The 360 million euro building - the biggest concert hall in Europe - has been open since 2017 and regularly hosts sports events and is home to rugby club Racing 92.

The Rolling Stones were the first artists to play there, performing there for three nights in October 2017. Since then, Roger Waters  has played there, with Booba scheduled for next month.

There has been no official confirmation of the shows so far, nor details of the dates or when tickets might be available.

Mylène's last tour was in 2013, with the Timeless tour supporting her 2012 Monkey Me album. That tour saw her perform 39 shows in five countries, France, Switzerland, Russia, Belarus and Belgium. The tour began with with ten nights at Bercy in Paris, the final show of the tour taking place in Nice on December  6 2013.

Ahead of any live dates next year, Mylène has been invited to appear on a TV show focussing on Jean-Paul Gaultier on France 2 next month. The French TV channel is screening a special programme about the French fashion legend, who has influenced a generation of artists in fields including fashion and music.

Gaultier, a friend od Mylène, designed costumes for Mylène's Tour 2009 and Timeless 2013 live shows as well as for some of her videos. Speaking earlier this year, Gaultier said that he could design the costumes for a forthcoming Mylène Farmer tour.

Among the others expected on the show are Catherine Ringer, Indochine and Christine and the Queens.

Mylène releases her 11th studio album, Désobéissance on Friday, a collection that includes the singles Rolling Stone, N'oublie pas and the recently released Sentimentale.

Sunday, 23 September 2018

Mylène Farmer: Sentimentale

A new track from the forthcoming new album by Mylène Farmer has emerged, with a video for the track Sentimentale the week ahead of the release of Désobéissance.

It's a fairly basic video, mostly a graphic with what looks like home movies of  Mylène enjoying some down time alone with her dogs. It's perhaps a lower key clip than usual,  no costumes, no locations and no rich cinematography. Instead it has the feel of something more relaxed, perhaps to show a more approachable side to Mylène, or perhaps it was just put together quickly to accompany the release of the track.

Fans will no doubt still be scouring it in minute details to determine exactly the state of Mylène's art.

The single is availeble from all the streaming and legal download platforms. No word as yet on a physical release, but that can't be far away.

Sentimentale is the third track to come out ahead of the release of Désobéissance, following Rolling Stone and N'oublie pas. It was produced by Feder, who aso produced Rolling Stone and is involved in many of the other tracks on the new album,

Désobéissance will inevitably be one of the biggest releases in France this year. The two previous singles have both added to Mylène's impressive collection of number one singles in France since the start of her career in the 80s. It's a fair bet that this one will also make a significant chart impact.

But the real test will be with the release of the new album. It is Mylène's first release on a new label, Sony, so there will perhaps be more eyes measuring its impact than before as well as determining her next moves.

More singles? More film work? A tour? Mylène always keeps her plans well guarded, but the success of the new album may play a significant measure in what Mylène does next.

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Lomepal: 1000°C clip

Love this video by Lomepal, taking French rap to far stranger territory than it might normally go.

It's the first track from his forthcoming new album which is due out in December and features a contribution from Belgian rapper Roméo Elvis.

Lomepal's debut album Flip was released in June last year and was one of the biggest selling rap albums of the year.

The Paris-based artist, known to his family and friends as Antoine Valentinelli has attracted a huge number of views to his work on YouTube, released his first EP  20 mesures in 2011, following it with Le singe fume sa cigarette in 2013.

His rigourous live schedule has helped him build up a massive following ahe he plays at the Détonation festival in Besancon at the end of the month.

He's got a sold-out show at the Olympia in Paris on October 4, and he recently announced a tour of the arenas around France, Belgium and Switzerland early next year including the Zénith in Paris on February 20.

Christine and the Queens: La marcheuse

A new video by Christine and the Queens emerges just days ahead of the much anticipated new album.

It's interesting to see Heloïse Letissier portrayed as a bullfighter in the video, albeit one who makes friends with a bull. She's had a bit of a fight so far with critics of her new material and new image, but this track certainly shows more of the crisp electo-pop that made Chaleur Humaine so irresistable.

Like the bull in the video, she'll inevitably win them over.

An English language version of the song - entitled The Walker - will feature on the international version of the new album

Three clips have already come out ahead of the release of the new collection, due at the end of the week in two versions - a French version with 12 tracks and an international version, predominately in English, with 11 tracks.

Extensive tour dates are scheduled around Europe and North America from next month, with shows in the UKand Ireland in November before dates in Switzerland and France in December ending with two nights at the Accorhotels Arena in Paris on December 18 and 19.

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Jain: Souldier on French TV

An appearance by Jain on the France 2 TV show On n'est pas couché at the weekend, with an interview and an acoustic performance of the title track of her recently released second album.

I've probably not mentioned Jain's album as much as it deserves. Her debut album Zanaka was a massive seller, leading to her actually making some inroads with an English speaking audience, with appearances on Later with Jools Holland in the UK and the Late Show with Stephen Colbert in the USA.

If there's a French artist likely to follow Christine and the Queens into the uncharted waters of anglo-saxon recognition in the near future, it's a fair bet that it will be Jain.

Her new album was released last month following the release of Alright and the title track as singles.

She's a charming artist who is quite startlingly talented, as the acoustic solo performance on this appearance shows.

She's got a full schedule of live dates ahead to support the new album, with shows in North America next month and two gigs in the UK - Manchester on November 26 and London on November 27 and an extensive tour ahead around France next year.

Monday, 17 September 2018

Rachid Taha at the Trans musicales de Rennes, 21012

Great to watch the live set by Rachid Taha that he performed at the Trans musicales de Rennes, in memory of the huge talent that we recently lost.

Rachid Taha died on September 12, leaving a legacy that few will match. He took the sound North Africa into new places, inspired by (and according to legend inspiring) the Clash, electronica and rock.

From his early work with Carte de Séjour to his 2013 album Zoom, Taha was the kind of iconoclast most artists can only aspire to being.

The set in Rennes was filmed by Arte, and having a performance like this on tape really shows the value of filming these events.

Vanessa Paradis: Ces mots simples

A new single from Vanessa Paradis, with the track Ces mots simples emerging ahead of the release of a new album later this year.

The song was written by her husband, film director Samuel Benchetrit. The couple met during the making of the movie Chien in 2016, Paradis starring in the film that Benchetrit directed.

While musically best remembered in the UK for a hit single she had in 1987 at the age of 14, Vanessa Paradis has gone of to a career that has seen the release of six studio albums so far, collections that have included collaborations with Serge Gainsbourg, M, Benjamin Biolay and Lenny Kravitz.

She's won multiple Victoire de la Musique awards over the years, including best female artist, best pop album, and best music video.

As an actress she's had similar success, from her César award for Most Promising Actress in 1990's Noce blanche to multiple awards for her performance in Café de Flore.

Her new album follows 2013's Love Songs, a double album produced by Benjamin Biolay that reached number one in France.

Les Sources is released on November 16.

Saturday, 15 September 2018

Jean-Michel Jarre: Equinoxe Infinity

So no sooner does Jean-Michel Jarre release the massive retrospective set Planet Jarre - a four disc, 41 track collection - than he announces the release of a new album in just a matter of months.

November sees the releas of Equinoxe Infinity, marking the 40th anniversary of the 1978 release of his original Equinoxe album.

I've always liked Equinoxe, and while it perhaps doesn't get the same level of respect as Oxygene does, it really was the work that confirmed Oxygene was no one-off piece, and that as an artist he had more to offer.  

Given the scale of the impact of Oxygene, and the attention it received again with the later two volumes in the trilogy, it's perhaps understandable that Equinoxe has perhaps been slightly overlooked. Time to put that right.

Oxygene's themes were developed over subsequent decades in the two other volumes, and its legendary status secured.  But if you had to pick two Jarre albums that defined his aesthetic, it would probably be Oxygene and Equinoxe rather than any of the other volumes in the Oxygene trilogy.

The concept of Equinox, of anonymous and ambiguous observers watching over us is one that certainly rings true today. Technology might have advanced, but so do the questions that it provokes. Jarre, as always, ahead of his time.

The new collection features two different covers, one showing a future vision of man in harmony with nature, the other showing a potentially more destructive future.

Equinoxe Infinity is released on CD, vinyl and a deluxe box set on November 16.

Friday, 14 September 2018

Indochine: Song for a Dream

A new video by Indochine, with a big budget treatment for the track Song for a dream, from their 13 album.

For such an unapologetically rock number, it's a filmic video without much reference to the band members. Something of a surprise too, as the band were expected to release the track Gloria featuring Asia Argento as a single. Perhaps recent events involving the actor led to it being put on hold for the moment.

It has been a landmark 12 months for Indochine, 13 being released in September 2017. A number one album in France and elsewhere in mainland Europe, the singles Un été francais and La vie est belle getting massive attention. Station 13 was released as a single just last month.

The album has been one of the band's biggest sellers. Not bad for a band that has been around since 1981.

Song for a Dream has emerged as one of the favourite tracks on the album, fans getting the chance to experience it live during the extensive touring they've done to promote the album.

Indochine have more live dates in November and December, including three shows at the AccorHotels Arena in Paris on November 14, 16 and 17.

Festival: I'm From Rennes

If I had to choose a favourite French city, Rennes would be a strong contender. It's a scenic and historic place of course, but it also punches well above its weight in terms of its music scene.

Maybe it's the large student population, with a univesity and art school in the city. Or maybe it's something in Brittany's celtic culture, where pubs take a more significant place in society than the traditional French cafe, that helps support a thriving musical culture.

Or perhaps it is because it is far enough away from Paris that acts have the opportunity to practice their craft and develop organically at their own pace and in a supportive environment.

Like Liverpool, Manchester or Glasgow it has a vibrant musical landscape and history of its own, as well as providing a fertile ground for the artists of tomorrow.

While events like the Transmusicales attract international attention, today sees a smaller scale event in the city to celebrate the local talent. I'm From Rennes runs from today until September 23 and sees events at clubs, theatres as well as other venues including public squares and libraries.

The event describes itself as La rentrée de la scene Rennais - the return of the Rennes scene after the holidays.

Tonight sees contemporary rock act Février play at the Champs Libres in the city centre, and Maximilien and Praa bring electro and soul ouotdoors at Place de la Parcheminerie.

This weekend Square Guy Houist hosts microbreweries, street food and rock 'n' roll, with two days of  a German biergarten vibe featuring local brewers, local bands and sets from local DJ.

There's much on offer over the next ten days. I'll feature some of the acts over the next few days, as rather than just list them here, they deserve a bit of attention in their own right as well.

Thursday, 13 September 2018

Julia: S.E.X.T.O.

A debut single by French teenage singer Julia, a graduate of The Voice Kids TV show, written by Mylène Farmer and her collaborator Laurent Boutonnat.

Farmer and Boutonnat were impressed by performances the youngster had posted on YouTube and decided to work with her, writing her debut single and overseeing the launch of her career.

Of course, the song's theme is meant to be a bit edgy and controversial for a 16-year-old female artist. All the more likely to get some attention. Maybe it's an echo of a modus operandi established by Serge Gainsbourg in the 60s although if you ask me old Serge had a bit more subtlety, wit and humour about his work.

If it all seems a bit familiar, maybe it is. Julia follows Alizée as a younger representative representative of Mylène Farmer and Laurent Boutonnat. Alizée also featured in a French TV show for kids - Graines de Star - in 1999 before releasing the similarly "edgy" single Moi...Lolita single in 2000.

It was a massive success, as was her debut album Gourmandises which sold over four million copies.
Farmer and Boutonnat wrote the songs on that dabut album and its follow up, overseeing the early years of her career until she was an established name in France and beyond.

Alizée's career continues, with her most recent album being 2014's Blonde. She's also a major star in France due to her appearances on France's Danse avec les stars TV show.

Given the immense popularity of the Farmer and Boutonnat brand in France, and their previous success with Alizée, they've not strayed too far from a successful formula.

As it coincides with the return of Mylène, Julia's debut release has emerged at just the right time to attract a huge amount of attention. Farmer and Boutonnat certainly know what they're doing.

Thursday, 6 September 2018

Johnny Hallyday: Mon pays c'est l'amour

If there's a release that will challenge Mylène Farmer's forthcoming new album as the biggest seller of 2018, it has to be the forthcoming final studio album by Johnny Hallyday.

Details confirming the title of Johnny's posthumous collection have been confirmed. The album will be called Mon pays c'est l'amour, the songs recorded in the months leading up to the legendary singer's death in December last year.

The album will be his 51st studio album, and features ten songs including Back in LA, J'irai parler au diable, Je ne suis q'un homme, and Made in Rock 'n' roll as well as the title track.

Johnny's widow Laeticia says that in the album there is a lot of what he wanted to say before he left. It will be an emotional listen for his fans. Hopefully it will live up to their expectations, there's a tendency for such posthumous releases to disappoint.

The cover picture by Dimitri Coste looks a close relative of his portrait used on the cover of Johnny's  2012 album  L'Attente. While the new album features a black and white portrait, it seems to originate from the same photoshoot.

The ten track album will be released on October 19.

Transmusicales 2018: First names announced #trans2018

The first portion of names playing this year's Transmusicales festival in Rennes has been served up by the festival's organisers.

Fifteen of the acts playing the 40th edition of the event have been confirmed. Performances are held in the city centre at venue including the Ubu and the Liberté as well as at the Expo park on the edge of the city. Many of the shows in the city are free.

Transmusicales is a showcase for developing acts like no other. While featuring some of the best international acts, it has an equally well-curated selection of French acts.

Among the acts confirmed so far is Aloïse Sauvage, who might be better known for her performance in the film 120 beats per minute, but has also released several singles since 2015 establishing herself as a significant electro pop artist. Her most recent release, Hiver brûlant, was released earlier this year.

Other french acts include R&B soul act Praa, a Rennes local who has so far released a couple of critically acclaimed singles, Ryder the Eagle, the former drummer with Les Aves who has released a single and an EP so far in his solo career, and there's a DJ set by house/techno artist La Fraicheur.

Elsewhere the bill includes middle eastern psych rock from Al-Qasar, Afro-latin funk from Arp Frique, indie rock from Bodega from the USA, disco act Bruno Belissimo, afropop from Pongo, psych pop from Pressyes, veteran soul act Robert Findley,  Armenian neo-traditional act The Naghash Ensemble.

American punk afrobeat act Underground System are playing, as are South Korean/UK pop act Wooze.

Contemporary (well, 60s and early 70s influenced...) British rock is represented by The Surrenders.

The main announcement of act playing this year's Transmusicales is made on September 20. This year's festival runs from December 5 to December 9.

Monday, 3 September 2018

Editorial: September 2018

September is the month when France traditionally gets back to business after the summer.

Folk return from the south and the west, from beaches or countryside, back to studies, school, work and their regular lives. Shops re-open, cafés return to their regular hours and the country gets back to its normal life after the traditional month away.

It's La rentrée, a special season in France that's also marked by the release of new books, new ideas and new resolutions after a relaxed summer. Time to get serious, time to get busy and time to put new ideas into practice.

September is also going to be a hell of a month for new music releases.

Christine and the Queens release Chris, the much-anticipated second album, on September 21. She's also appearing in London earlier in the month, on September 16, to discuss the album in public and answer questions from the audience. We'll be seeing more of her in November when she plays live dates across the UK.

Elsewhere in French megastar releases, the new collection from Mylène Farmer, emerges on September 28.  Details of Désobéissance emerged last month with the unveiling of a massive poster in the centre of Paris featuring the cover artwork, a photograph by Jean-Baptiste Mondino.

The two singles that have been released from the album so far have both reached number one in the French charts, adding to Mylène's impressive record. I'd put money on Mylène's new album being one of 2018's biggest sellers by the end of the year.

There's also a new four-disc retrospective collection from Jean-Michel Jarre celebrating the 50th anniversary of his career released on September 14. Planet Jarre; 50 years of Music ranges from his best known work to rare material, and includes two new tracks and an unreleased demo from his Music for Supermarkets project, the legendary album that was only pressed on one copy before the master tapes were destroyed.

The new collection was curated by Jarre, with some remastering of the tracks to give them a fresher sound.

Elsewhere? There's a new album by Flavien Berger, a favourite of this blog, which drops on September 28. Contre-temps is his second album, a video for the track Maddy la Nuit emerging towards the end of last month.

Also, the very much looked forward to second album by Grand Blanc is in the pipeline with a September 14 release date. Their debut was one of this blog's favourites in recent years, their second sounds so far like something very special indeed.

Meanwhile, there are new albums by Thomas Dutronc and Zazie due this month as well, both due on September 7.

Much to look forward to, much to write about and plenty to listen to. Enjoy La rentrée musicale

I'm available by email at johnkilbrideAThotmailDOTcom, with a couple of obvious changes in the email address that I'm sure you can guess. If you're a PR for a French act, label or event, just drop me an email.

I'm always pleased to get feedback, suggestions and inspiration. The blog is also on Twitter as @viveleroq, so give us a follow or contact us via there. I'm also on Twitter as @karnag, and usually respond a bit quicker on that address especially when I'm out the office.

 Thanks as always to the team at Oui Love Music for all their work introducing French acts to the international audience.

 John K