mp3 music player highlighting plush artists and records

  Snapshot from Paris    
Plush artists on the road around the UK in 2003 together with musicians from Frédéric Galliano's label Frikyiwa :
London Queen Elizabeth Hall -with special guest Irène Jacob >more
Leeds Wardbobe >more
Nottingham University Lakeside Arts Centre >more
Bracknell South Hill Park Arts Centre >more
Liverpool Unity Theatre >more
Birmingham Mac Theatre >more

+ Frédéric Galliano and The African Diva Hadja Kouyaté
+ Katerine >more
+ Benoît Delbecq
+ The Recyclers
+ Steve Argüelles
+ Lipitone
+ Ali Boulo Santo
+ Jean-Jacques Avenel
+ Christophe Minck
+ sascii aka Sylvie Astié

When, in the late 90s, Paris shot into the limelight with the French Touch phenomenon, you could be forgiven for thinking that the city had only awoken to the full force of electronic music with the invention of acid house. Suddenly acts like Daft Punk, Motorbass and Etienne de Crécy were the leading lights of the dance underground, while Air, DJ Cam and Mighty Bop spearheaded the global jazz, breaks and easy listening tinged chill-out sessions. Paris, it would seem, was suddenly the leading light of electronic beats invention.

It was, of course, a view that was completely blind to the part that France (and more pointedly Paris) had played in forging both the developments of a global electronic music aesthetic. Indeed, the path to the short-lived French Touch explosion led straight back to some of the most significant developments in the history of electronic music.

Perhaps the most interesting point in the early creation of an electronic aesthetic came with the musique concrete movement, whose sonic explorations would ultimately have a huge impact on the way people perceived music. Musique concrete was a highly scientific, yet creatively liberating approach to music, through which the composer (most notably Pierre Henry) explored the symphonic possibilities found in everyday, inanimate objects. In the course of their endeavour the school would create some of the earliest techniques for sound manipulation by tape editing.

Such editing techniques would eventually lay the groundwork for the invention of dub production and ultimately sampling. However, it was through the work of Jean Jacques Perrey that tape manipulation would find a pop-orientated audience. Noted for his promotion of proto-synthesizer, the Ondioline, and the subsequent patronage of Edith Piaf, Perrey would develop intricate editing techniques that converted sound to a series of minuscule measurements. His work would also find him applying his tape editing skills and love of the Ondioline to the groundbreaking Moog explorations of Gershon Kingsley. Their unique ‘Space Age Pop’ sound would ultimately have a huge and lasting impact on both hip hop and dance music.

The next major development in Parisian music would be bound to the culture of New York; disco. The discothéque aesthetic itself can be located as far back as just after World War I, while during the World War II Nazi occupation of Paris, people would set up primitive soundsystems (called discothéques) in underground cellars to play American jazz records. Indeed, jazz had found a lasting stronghold in Paris as many of the leading black players later discovered the city to be one of the only places in the world where they were accepted for they creativity and not rejected for their colour. As a result the influence of jazz would stretch into the very fabric of Parisian creativity.

The growth of the velvet rope elitism of disco culture can also be found in the story of Parisian club culture. Most notable were the post-war establishments of Chez Regine and Whiskey-a-Go-Go, which would lay down the blueprints for New York’s Studio 54. The 70s soundtrack to these clubs was of course disco, in which Paris also lead the way thanks to the work of Jacques Morali (who created The Village People among others) and the self proclaimed Godfather of the French Touch, Cerrone whose own roots were as the drummer with pre-disco, African influenced outfit The Congas.

That the rhythms of disco found a foothold in Paris should come as no surprise. Much of the sound’s foundation lay in a fusion of the syncopated Latin rhythms often explored in American jazz and the West African grooves that had been imported into France by the country’s significant African communities. A population that subsequently started to influence developments in Parisian street culture – most significantly the hip hop explosion of the 80s.

With the end of disco in sight Paris could once again be seen to be playing a part in the further development of dance fusion. The late 70s and early 80s saw the rise of no wave and its sister sound, mutant disco. At the forefront of this was Les Garçons, whose records arrived courtesy of revered French/Anglo imprint Ze Records. That the label was actually based in New York wasn’t unusual. Paris and New York seem almost fused at the hip, by the hip.

The 80s saw the arrival of house culture, a sound pioneered and inspired by the work of French DJ/producer François Kervorkian. It also saw Detroit techno and rave culture take root in Paris. From here came FNAC Dance and subsequently F-Communications, labels spearheaded by Eric Morand and globally renowned DJ Laurent Garnier. Not only would the duo champion techno in the early 90s but they would also open the doors to exciting developments in live performance. For, just as the enfants terrible of the French Touch were laying down their first tentative tracks, F-Communications acts like St. Germain and Frederic Galliano were already treading the boards with their unique fusions of house, jazz, hip hop and West African grooves.

Here was music that transcended any limitations of fashion and time; a living and breathing sound that in turn enriched the dominant house culture and the scenes they had sourced. Here musicians could be heard applying the contemporary house and techno aesthetic to the techniques of jazz and Afro-beat. And, by taking the experience into a live situation, they further pushed the boundaries with the fusion of the freeform vision of jazz, loose limbed Afro-expression and the immediacy, adaptability and voice of contemporary DJ culture (it is important to note that Paris also boasts globally renowned turntablist DJs like DMC champions C2C).

Not only has this hybridisation grown from the French ideology of mettisage, but it has also sunk deep into the very heart of the country’s popular culture. Chanson has slowly embraced the new sounds and a very modern take on traditional French pop has started to take a foothold - most notably through the bewitching vocal talents of (Philippe) Katerine. Which brings us to this extraordinary tour.

Snapshot of Paris then not only represents the very embodiment of the developments in the Parisian experimental underground, but also brings together a collection of artists whose work sits at the very forefront of this experimentation. Delivered as a seamless, DJ orientated set, the musicians fuse and melt their sounds into each other, slowly evolving into a showcase of individual talent through collective response.

The Snapshot of Paris tour is mainly based around the output of renowned drummer Steve Argüelles’ electronic jazz performance imprint Plush and Frederic Galliano’s live jazz, house and Afro-fusion label, Frikyiwa. Artists include the previously mentioned Katerine whose backing band, The Recyclers, number among their members Argüelles and innovative composer Benoît Delbecq, acclaimed for his fusion of contemporary classical, non-western, ambient and jazz forms. Together Delbecq and Argüelles also perform as Ambitronix and Piano Book, through which the duo deconstruct jazz, ambient and house via modern dance production techniques. Delbecq’s own Quartet on the other hand reverses the approach, subsuming contemporary production techniques into jazz exploration.

Delbecq’s approach to non-western music is complemented by the West African influenced electronic sounds of Lipitone aka Marc Challosse, whose dub and ambient techniques melt with tape edits of field sound recordings found in the night time ambience of the Bougouni village in Mali. His performance is complemented by the breathtaking kora playing of Ali Boulo Santo while both Challosse and his kora player turn up as members of Frederic Galliano’s African Divas, one of the most innovative acts to have emerged from the electronic sphere.

Book-ending the show are the visuals and DJing talents of Sascii (aka Sylvie Astié) whose graphics have adorned many of the records to have emerged from Paris.

So there it is Paris in a snapshot. A history that is as rich as it is overlooked. The French capital has long been the hidden epicentre of musical exploration. Today, as much as they ever were, the boundaries are being crossed and foundations laid for the next level of creative musical pursuit. From electronic improvisation to jazz exploration, Afro-expression to pop diversion, this tour of likeminded liquid talent is proof positive of Paris’ position at the forefront of musical innovation.

With this particular Snapshot from Paris you see the city as the living, breathing, morphing, evolving, multi-ethnic, multi-influenced and multi-influential entity that it truly is.

Author of French Connections: From Discothéque to Discovery (Sanctuary)