After the initial optimism of the liberated, swinging and psychedelic sixties, the events of Altamont Free Concert, meant many people were pleased to see a new decade dawn. As the sixties became the seventies, music started to change. It was revolution rather evolution. This was a long way from 1962, when The Beatles released Love Me Do. Music was becoming much more complex. A lot it seemed, had happened in eight years. This included psychedelia and synths, which would play a huge part in the music of the seventies.
Just five months into 1970, The Beatles released what was their final album, the disappointing Let It Be. The Beatles weren’t going to be at the vanguard of this musical revolution. Across the world, music changed drastically. That was the case in France. Drawing inspiration from sixties psychedelia, soul, funk and rock, and drawing upon the sounds of the latest synths a lysergic, cosmic, electronic revolution unfolded. A new generation of French musicians would create some of the most innovative, inventive and mind-bending music. Twenty examples of this can be found on Cosmic Machine, which is described as “a voyage across French cosmic and electronic avantgarde 1970-1980.
Cosmic Machine, which was compiled by Uncle O and released on 14th October 2013 on Because Music, charts the development, innovation and revolution in French electronic music. Featuring artists including Didier Marouani, François De Roubaix, Universal Energy, Space Art, The Atomic Crocus, Bernard Fevre and Jean-Jacques Perrey. Among the names most people will know, are a pre-disco Patrick Juvet, the legendary Jean Michel Jarre, French Euro Disco Godfather Cerrone and the inimitable Serge Gainsbourg. These are just a tantalizing taste of the artists who can be found on Cosmic Machine. As the Cosmic Machine prepares to blast off, I’ll begin the countdown from ten.
My first choice is Patrick Juvet’s Le Rêve, which opens Cosmic Machine. For most people, Patrick Juvet is best remembered for his 1978 single I Love America. That couldn’t be further from the truth. There’s much more to Patrick Juvet than disco. He’s a versatile artist whose career started in 1973. In total, he released twelve studio albums between 1973 and 1991. Le Rêve is taken from his 1979 album B.O. Laura, Les Ombres De L’Ete, the soundtrack to David Hamilton’s sophomore film. It features a variety of musical influences and genres. Synths play their part in a track that’s variously futuristic, progressive, innovative and even, medieval. A combination of electronica, prog rock, psychedelia and Acid House synths shows another side to the multitalented Patrick Juvet.
Mention the name François De Roubaix, and those familiar with his work will tell you about an innovative musician who fused musical genres. His work was always progressive and ahead of the musical curve. Embracing synths and musical technology was key to his success. So was combining classical, ethnic and electronic instruments. Despite dying aged just thirty-six, he composed thirty soundtracks. Survol was part of a score he wrote, but which was rejected by Jacques Cousteau’s L’Antartique documentary. Despite being rejected it’s tantalizing taste of what he’s capable of. Briefly it sounds like Electronic Light Orchestra’s Turn To Stone but takes on a grand, dramatic, cinematic and Gallic sound.
Despite Space releasing Magic Fly in 1977, it sounds as if it could’ve been recorded recently. Truly timeless describes this track. Founded by Didier Marouani and Roland Romanelli, Space released a quartet of albums for the Vogue label between 1977 and 1980. Magic Fly was the title-track of their sophomore album. It provided them with the biggest hit of their career. A fusion of Euro Disco, synth pop and electronica, influences include Giorgio Moroder, Jean Michel Jarre, Donna Summer and Kraftwerk. Pulsating, sultry, ethereal and truly timeless describes this dance classic.
Pierre Bachelet’s Motel Show is a glorious fusion of musical genres and influences. Taken from the soundtrack Le Dernier Amant Romnatique, which was released in 1978, this was Pierre’s first album in three years. It proves a welcome return. Synths wah-wah their way across the arrangement while hissing hi-hats, lush strings and a pulsating Euro Disco beat combine. They play their part in a genre-melting track where funk, disco, electro and Euro Disco combine seamlessly.
The Atomic Crocus’ Ombilic Contact is a mind-bending, lysergic fusion. It was the B-Side to Smile At Me. Essentially, this is a sonic experiment, where musical boundaries are pushed further than before. If you can imagine a detuned bluesy guitars combining with eerie, futuristic, sci-fi synths you’re halfway there. What follows, is a mystical, musical journey through musical genres. Psychedelia, electronica, prog rock, funk and soul melt into one lysergic track.
Modern music, owes Cerrone a debt of gratitude. He was an innovator, continually pushing musical boundaries, paving the way for a future generation of producers. Not content to stand still, he was always looking to innovate, creating tomorrow’s music today. Générique-Début which features on his 1978 album Brigade Mondaine, is a track with a myriad of secrets awaiting discovery. For two minutes drums pound, before eerie, almost sinister synths meander in. Despite only featuring two instruments, Cerrone uses them effectively. So much so, that Gerald de Villiers used the track in a television series about the French vice squad. He felt this track portrayed perfectly a nervous, debutante stripper.
Quartz’s Chaos closed their 1978 eponymous debut album. It’s an album that’s way ahead of its time. Drawing inspiration from prog rock, ambient and Euro Disco what follows is a track that innovative and groundbreaking. Ethereal, celestial harmonies join a pulsating, driving beat and buzzing synths. Sounding like an a forerunner of house music, you’re taken on a musical journey through classical, choral, electro, Euro Disco and prog rock. Combined by Didier Plus, Laurent Taleb and Patrick Langlade, it’s a track that was ahead of its time and as a result, is timeless.
Serge Gainsbourg’s Le Physique Et Le Figuré is the polar opposite of J’Taime. Released in 1981, Le Physique Et Le Figuré, was the title of a film he directed. He unleashes a myriad of synths, keyboards, rocky guitars and thunderous drums. Sounding like the soundtrack to an intergalactic car chase featuring Super Ted and Hans Solo it’s dramatic, opus that shows another side to Serge Gainsbourg.
Alain Goraguer’s Le Bracelet is quite unlike much of the music on Cosmic Machine. That’s because it was recorded in the early seventies. Taken from the soundtrack Le Planete Sauvage, which was released in 1973, musical genres melt into one. This includes jazz, funk and soul. As for the track, it’s wistful, melancholy and broody. The drama builds and momentarily, it’s downright funky. Always, the track has a cinematic sound and you never quite know what might happen next.
Rocket Men’s Rocket Man, which is an instrumental, is my final choice from Cosmic Machine. Released as a single in 1974, on the Disc Az label, it was produced by Philippe Renaux. It’s the perfect way to close Cosmic Machine. Indeed, it’s as if the Cosmic Machine has taken off and you’re heading on a musical adventure. During that adventure, you visit musical genres and influences, including funk, prog rock, electronica, psychedelia and disco. This ensures your journey on the Cosmic Machine is mind-blowing, innovative and lysergic.
Featuring twenty innovative, genre-sprawling tracks, the journey onboard the Cosmic Machine is truly compelling, enthralling and spellbinding adventure. Mind-blowing even. Lasting seventy-eight minutes, you’re taken on an intergalactic journey where musical genres and influences melt into one lysergic mass. You’re left wondering were these really Gitanes you smoked? After all, you’ve just heard everything from ambient, choral, classical, disco, electronica, electro, Euro Disco, funk, jazz, prog rock, psychedelia, rock and soul during the twenty tracks on Cosmic Machine. They’re fused by some of the most progressive, inventive and imaginative artists and producers in the history of French music. Genres and influences seamlessly melt into one, resulting in mesmeric, mystical, musical adventures. Somehow, that makes sense.
Cosmic Machine is a bit like a musical equivalent of Pythagorus’ Theorem. I know 3.14 infinity equals pie, but don’t know how the pieman got there? Similarly, it’s almost impossible to understand how the artists on Cosmic Machine were able to make music that was so far ahead of the musical curve? That’s the eight mystery of the world. Some of the music sounds as if it was recorded only recently. It wasn’t. Far from it. Instead, it was recorded in the early seventies, over forty years ago. That’s quite remarkable. Despite the equipment being much more basic, the music sounds truly timeless. If only artists and producers were producing music that’s just as inventive and groundbreaking as the music on Cosmic Machine.
For newcomers to French electronic and avant garde music, Cosmic Machine which released on 14th October 2013 on Because Music, is the perfect starting place. It might be the first album of French electronic and avant garde music you buy, but believe me, it won’t be the last. Described as “a voyage across French cosmic and electronic avant garde 1970-1980,” that’s almost an understatement. Instead, I’d describe Cosmic Machine as a magical, mystical, musical mystery tour through innovative, inventive and imaginative electronic and avant garde music. The lysergic, genre-melting music on Cosmic Machine is truly timeless and way ahead of the musical curve. So much so, that Cosmic Machine features music from the golden age of French electronic and avante garde music. Don’t just take my word for it, climb onboard the Cosmic Machine and head off on a magical, mystical, musical mystery tour with the Rocket Men as we head towards Space with Cerrone, Jean Michel Jarre and Serge Gainsbourg in search of the elusive The Atomic Crocus . Standout Tracks: François De Roubaix Survol, Space Magic Fly, The Atomic Crocus Ombilic Contact and Quartz Chaos.