Tuesday, September 16, 2008
So Young But So Cold: French Underground Music 1979-1982
J.J. Burnel, "Euroman" (YSI link)
Kas Product, "So Young But So Cold" (YSI link)
I believe that Volga Select and Tigersushi presented this CD, So Young But So Cold: French Underground Music 1979-1982, solely for me. First, the title is B-A-N-A-N-A-S. It's not just that the title, minus the French underground part, is going to be the name of Chapter 7 of my autobiography, chronicling my 20-28 years. [Incidentally, Chapter 8 is called The Best of Times and chronicles my marriage to Christy Marks, ascension to the role of today's Jane Jacobs and jut general radness of my thirties.] It's also that it's about being cold and detached and distant, which is so me. It's also the fact that it's about the French, my national obsession (shout outs to Eric Cantona, Emanuel Levinas and of course, my father). Plus it focuses on that Pound for Pound golden period, the late 70s, early 80s, when new wave, no wave, disco, electro and hip-hop all came together and melded and reformed and melted faces.
Seriously though, this is one of the best compilations I've heard in a long time. It's everything a compilation should be, a chronicle of an forgotten period of music that deserves to be remembered. It's not surprising that Volga Select was behind this, as it features the amazing death disco man, Ivan Smagghe, as one-half of the duo; the dude has an ear for the dark side of the underground (cf. Death Disco). He was joined by Volga Select partner, a.k.a. Mark Collin, in compiling the music on the disc, This one takes a look at the underground of French music for a three-year stretch that isn't associated as much of a golden period in that country's musical history. The music here covers varied ground, from more new-wave-y stuff to disco-not-disco tracks to experimental stuff; the common theme is the coldness of the music, dominated by machines like the synth and drum machines; one wonders if the government gave out drum machines and synthesizers to every child in the country. Better health care and free Rolands, people! Vive la France! Anyway, the title of the album fits perfectly, as these young groups all seem to have sucked the joy out of the disco that came before (and I mean that as the highest compliment). They've turned in machine music and complimented with detached vocals sung with no divaness at all.
I've chosen a couple of my favorites that should give you a sense of the music on So Young But So Cold. "Euroman" by JJ Bernel is probably my favorite, a minimal, slow-building track that would have fit well with the whole NYC scene of this same period. There's static-y drums, strummed guitar chords, a deep, dubby bass and the whisper-y French vocals of Bernel (I assume). It sounds like the thing could explode at any moment, but it never does. It stays nice and calm, never getting carried away. Awesome. I also went with the title song by Kas Product, "So Young But So Cold." This one's got a electro punk vibe, with some wicked synths, drum machine devastation and intensity. Mona and Spatz Soyoc ironically may have the least cold song on here, as the vocals get belted out with punk abandon. I really could have chosen any of the 16 tracks, as they all work for me, not a letdown on the whole disc. My only disappointment with the CD is the lack of quality liner notes; it would have been nice to have a little more historical information about this period in France, the story on these bands, whether there was a scene or if these bands worked in isolation, what happened to them, etc.
As you can tell, I recommend this as highly as possible, an essential purchase for anyone who likes the music and attitude that lies behind this blog. Grab your copy at Forced Exposure of the repressed version before it goes out of print again and you have to scour ebay or beg your friend for a copy. So Young! So Cold! Yeah!