I've been busy scouring the French musical landscape for fresh talent since the start of the year along with my Indie500 cohort Matthew and you can enjoy the fruits of our labour over at http://www.indie500radio.com/ where you can listen to our weekly podcast (posted Tuesday nights) on the cream of psych rock, shoegaze, garage and electro from France and further afield. And if that leaves you wanting even more then you could do a lot worse than checking out http://primalradiolive.com/ who replay our show every Wednesday night and broadcast a host of similar fare from around the world!
But back to France - here's a snapshot of some of the best records we've heard over the past six months, focussing specifically on the French scene and releases that have landed since the start of the year (although I have chucked in a few from late 2014 so as not to overlook any gems that we missed when they first arrived). Hope you enjoy and don't hesitate to explore the band/label sites for more sublime Gallic fare!
1. Future - Horizons
France's shoegaze scene has given us no end of bounties this year and Future dumped their debut album on an unsuspecting public in May to emerge as the undisputed front runners of the new vanguard of Gallic reverb junkies. 'Horizons' has been a long time coming but it was worth the wait, their promising standalone releases in the end only hinting at what these kiddies were capable of in LP format. Their blend of effects pedal theatrics and mesmeric electronica succeeds in scorching eyebrows whilst still retaining a metronomic pulse to keep you dancing through the storm. Groove and catharsis trade off perfectly here and the whole thing is executed with enough panache to leave you thinking that these guys are in it to be full blown rock stars as opposed to just another basement indie racket. This lands somewhere in the dark glasses end of the fuzz rock spectrum - think Crocodiles, 'Honey's Dead'-era Mary Chain and the better bits of APTBS. I'd even go as far as to throw in a Kasabian comparison if only for their cocksure attitude and fondness for riff muscle and dancefloor theatrics. For a debut LP they've decided to go straight for the headshot and it's paid off in spades - this deserves to be absolutely fucking massive.
Check out : the vid for the title track on YouTube. Ooooh yeah.
Hometown : Paris
Label : Requiem Pour Un Twister
Released : 25/05/15
2. Venera 4 - Eidolon
If Future bring the groove to the Parisian shoegaze scene then Venera 4 provide the glide, taking you through the clouds in a haze of brilliant light with their sumptuous debut 'Eidolon' which dropped in March of this year. This is a more calculated, clinical affair than their civic cousins' effort but it's equally satisfying, built on a solid foundation drum machine 'n' reverb to flood the picture with heavenly distortion and waves of luscious effects. Describing themselves as 'Two boys and two girls meeting in noisy pop songs' there's obviously a recognisable dollop of classic MBV in here but they're drawing from the right places - the lysergic, loop-based portions of 'Loveless' and its accompanying EPs - to avoid falling into lazy pigeonhole territory and there's perhaps a more distinct influence from early Curve, the glacial menace of 'Coast Is Clear' billowing through the room like welcome visitor from the spirit world. They flit between their native tongue and Dream Pop English across the ten tracks here to sublime effect and fill out an image of warm light and deep, striking colour to leave you feeling breathless and revived as the record draws to a close. Stunning stuff.
Check out : the video for 'Three Studies For A Portrait'.....intense.
Hometown : Paris
Label : Requiem Pour Un Twister
Released : 02/03/15
3. Dead Horse One - Without Love We Perish
Having Mark Gardener on production duties was never going to do Valence's Dead Horse One any harm in the shoegaze stakes but they've got more than enough fuel in their tank to carve out a distinct niche all of their own. 'Without Love.....' builds on their aptly-titled 'Heavenly Choir Of Jet Engines' EP to bring their ideas from the larval stage into full blown sonic butterflies that soar and dip on waves of sublime melody and soothing rhythm. The band list The Telescopes and John Barry amongst their influences so they're presumably open to widescreen thinking as well as navel-gazing intimacy and they vary the palette nicely across this impressively accomplished debut to revive the spirit of House of Love at their most sun-kissed and plaintive along with the mellower acoustic-driven cuts from their producer's back catalogue ('Sennen', 'OX4' etc). This is more Sunday morning that Saturday night but there are enough weekends left in 2015 for these guys to soundtrack on their way to stardom.
Check out : 'I Love My Man', maybe even the birth of something huge.
Hometown : Valence, Ardeche
Label : Nothing
Released : 15/02/15
4. Selenian - self-titled EP
Flying the flag for Northern France, Selenian brought a potent dose of drawn out space rock to the mix with this gorgeous little EP back in January for a much needed glimpse of sunshine. They come at you in that half awake half dreaming state, easing you out of your slumber but still coming packed with an ambitious blueprint for the day. 'Selenian' draws from Broadcast's warm electronic pop and the less inane elements of Tame Impala's guitar fantasies and condenses them into a heady mix of shimmering guitars, sweet crooning vocals and a streamlined rush of weightless energy. This debut EP basically represents a re-tooled version of their early demo tracks and if they're churning out such quality this early in the game there's surely bigger and better things round the corner for these cloud-skipping Northerners. Considered us booked in for the next instalment.
Check out : 'Miss You Echo' with some suitably tripped out visuals.
Hometown : Valenciennes
5. Be Quiet - Ichor (single)
I'm slipping this one in as it's the first material we've had so far this year from these wide-eyed dreamers from Bordeaux who are due to follow up their two impeccably suave early EPs with a third instalment in the next few weeks. The vibe here, and across the Bordeaux scene in general as far as we can tell, is slickly-produced electro with a hint of cheeky guitar pop peeking round the studio door to craft a product that'll cross over effortlessly to mainstream radio yet still withstand repeat blasts in more intimate surroundings. Last year's 'Affliction' EP was a masterclass in layered sensation, serving up memorable pop hooks where needed but leaving time aside for some more considered forays into distortion and cavernous reverb. They're surely clever enough to take this in any direction they like and I for one am holding out hope that they resist the urge to go full-on Radio Nova and wax away all the imperfections but in any case our appetite is whet for whatever they serve up next.
Hometown : Bordeaux
Label : Believe Digital
Released : 01/06/15
6. Volage - Heart Healing
Reaching out beyond the limits of shoegaze into the realms of general fuzz rock, the French scene has a reserve of rich delights to be enjoyed for those of you partial to the flower punk ramblings of Ty Seagall, Black Lips et al. Paris-based label Howlin' Banana Records have succeeded in netting the best examples of French psych pop and garage rock including Tours' own Volage whose debut LP 'Heart Healing' the label put out last October, a heady mix of mischievous 60s garage and modern day US slacker scuzz rock that can't fail to put a sloppy grin on your face and prompt you to crack open an inexpensive alcoholic beverage or two. Their garage drawl takes in influences from the original crop (Fugs, Mothers of Invention) through to the emergent talent from earlier in the decade (Wavves, FIDLAR) but there's a tender heart beneath their lolloping riffs and slack-jawed harmonies that'll make you warm to them quicker than their self-consciously goofy Stateside competitors. Check out the free Howlin' Banana compilation below for a taste of this and the label's other chief treats.
Check out : 'Paolina', their delightfully stompy set closer.
Hometown : Tours
Label : Howlin Banana
Free HB sampler available at https://howlinbananarecords.bandcamp.com/album/summer-sampler-free-download
7. Maria False - When
Hailing from Rennes, perhaps France's most lively city for indie music, Maria False specialise in the sort of washed out, flood the mix shoegaze that Kevin Shields and the Reid brothers were knocking out circa 1990 in between drug binges and periods of intense introspection. 'When' should come with a free pair of dark glasses, packing as it does a potent brew of streamlined groove and brutish swagger that you can only take in behind Raybans and preferably a mop of untamed hair. These kids don't stray too far from the original shoegaze blueprint but then again they don't really need to when their material hits the target like this - every track on here is cut perfectly for loud live reproductions and messy, heavily sedated home listening. A ballsy, brazen shot but a worthwhile one.
Check out : 'Blossom' from the new LP which gets straight to the point.
Hometown : Rennes
Label : Nothing
Released : 05/05/15
8. Soft Blonde - No Good Trying EP
Another band from the ever-reliable Nothing roster, Soft Blonde draw from Peel Session twee pop and early noughties electronica for a gorgeous slice of cloud-skipping dream pop on this debut EP, dipping intermittently into distortion and reverb with the elegance of a swan dive before gliding off into the sunlight. Pared down to a boy/girl duo they nevertheless manage to flesh out their sound to encompass psychedelic pop, experimental noise and C86 indie charm. The title hints that they might have a gloomier side and there’s a versatility on show here as they flit between weightless shoegaze shimmer and soft-spoken introspection and you get the impression that their bigger ideas may be yet to fully come to life. As with many of the bands out there still in the embryonic stage, the chance to paint on a wider canvass is one they'll surely use to thrilling effect. More s'il vous plait!
Check out : the whole thing at https://softblonde.bandcamp.com/releases
Hometown : Rennes
Label : Nothing
Released : 14/12/14
9. Slow Sliders - Childhood's Candies EP
If your preference is for songs over soundscapes then The Slow Sliders might just be the band for you, picking out catchy as hell lo-fi indie rock with this killer little EP that landed towards the end of last year. These kids tap into the kind of mellow indie that was doing the rounds in the late noughties (Grizzy Bear, Beach House) with a touch of goofball humour to round out an eminently likeable package and ‘Childhood’s Candies’ is tailor made to tickle your happy spot. The three tracks here match snappy, straight to the point pop with a more strung-out, ambling phase that hints that they’ve got enough of a handle on dynamics to stagger things nicely across a full length. I’m chasing that one up when it comes around but in the meantime this EP gives you enough to soundtrack a nice gentle float downstream while you wait. Rather intriguingly the photo collage on the cover also features an anonymous pair of bollocks – will the owner be unveiled on their next recording? Stay tuned to find out!
Check out : the boys doing it live in Nantes (no bollocks unfortunately)
Hometown : Lesneven, Brittany (although they live in Nantes now apparently)
Label : self-released
Released : 09/10/14
10. Rendez-Vous - self-titled EP
Completing my selection with a bit of sprightly post punk are Rendez-Vous who dropped this corking little debut in November laced with ice cold hooks and new wave elegance. These Parisians go in for one-handed keyboard riffs, pouting flair and anthemic chops that'd have landed them straight on Top of the Pops if this was still 1981. The neatly cut electro gems here channel perfectly the spirit of an era when British new romantics were taking their stylistic cues from France and the likes of Visage, Ultravox and Depeche Mode all linger in the background as the action unfolds. If you're familiar with the indie dens of the French capital then you may well have visited Le Piano Vache in the 5th, a venue that remains faithful to such an aesthetic and where these lads could easily set themselves up as the house band. Consider this a worthy introduction to the stick mic revival for 2015.
Check out : the suitably utilitarian video clip for 'The Others'
Hometown : Paris
Label : Zappruder
Released : 25/11/14