Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Bikini Machine - Monkey Bum Bum Boogie

Last week's cinéconcerts in Edinburgh brought an interesting collection of French bands to our attention, so I thought it maybe worth exploring them a bit more.

Bikini Machine were over to do a live soundtrack to the film Desperado at the event at the Institut Francais d'Ecosse.

The five-piece from Rennes have a style that combines the best of 60s yéyé, garage rock and energetic 60s soul, but rather than just being a retro act they take some of the best elements of the past and wrap them up with modern production values and techniques in a high-energy bundle, coming from a French hipster background that embraces electronics and hip hop as much as a Dutronc sneer and swagger.

In some ways they remind me of acts like The Hives, and the Make Up, although with a greater awareness of modern sounds.

The band have been around since 2001, their first album An introduction to Bikini Machine coming out in 2003.

The Dutronc project - Bikini Machine Joue Dutronc - was recorded in 2004-05 during a period when the band had to take some time out for health reasons.

The band resumed live work in 2005, and another album Daily Music Cooking emerged in 2006, their most recent, The Full Album coming out in autumn 2009.

Jon Spenser, who produced some of their work, said: "Bikini Machine play high-energy go-go-ye-ye supersonic garage soul for the new millennium. And they play it good!"

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

New: Danyèl Waro - La mauvaise réputation

A colourful cover of the Georges Brassens classic, from an album that hopes to make his work more familiar to a younger generation.

The song comes from the collection "Echos du monde" released to mark the 30th anniversary of the death of Brassens, which came out in May 2011.

While the reputation of Brassens's work is well established, the album addresses the issue that for many the original recordings sound dated and no longer relevant to the contemporary world, more on account of the way they are performed, arranged and recorded than the strength of the songs.

The collection takes the work of the poet with the pipe and puts it into new contexts, in different periods throughout the years and different places around the world.

There are 14 interpretations of his work, including versions in English Italian, Russian, Hebrew and Japanese, by artists that range from the well-known like Nina Simone to the less familiar like Pierre de Gaillande. with versions going from the more traditional to left-field covers like the version of La mauvaise réputation by Sidabitball.

The album should certainly encourage a few new listeners to explore the work of one of France's most significant artists.

As Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand said about Brassens: "He was a poetic anarchist with the gentlest anti-establishment voice ever recorded. Even if you can't appreciate the words, the melodies are simple and beautiful.

"He is both a national outcast and hero in France, yet most of us don't know him on this side of the Channel. His lyrics were more subversive than Dylan or the Sex Pistols and he wrote better tunes than either."

Or as Jaques Brel, who knew a thing or two about songwriting himself said: "I believe it is a mortal sin not to listen to Brassens."

Monday, 27 June 2011

Live: Jean Michel Jarre - Monaco royal wedding

A heads up for an event on Friday, when Jean Michel Jarre plays in Monaco to mark the royal wedding.

While we in the UK have had plenty of royal wedding cake this summer, it's the turn of Prince Albert of Monaco, the sovereign of the principality, to tie the know with Zimbabwe-born South African Olympic swimmer Charlene Wittstock.

It will be the biggest event in the principality for decades, probably since the marriage of Albert's father to Grace Kelly, with events being held on Thursday ahead of the civil service on Friday and the religious service on Saturday.

The prince met his bride-to-be at a swimming event in 2000 in Monaco.

On the Thursday there will be a concert by the Eagles at the Louis II Stadium, with an audience consisting of "Monegasque citizens, residents, persons working in the Principality and people from neighbouring communities."

Jarre plays on Friday night, an open-air free event in the heart of the port.

15,000 people are expected to watch the Eagles. With regard the Jarre concert, the Princes Palace of Monaco just says "A very large audience is expected."

The Monaco concert will be transmitted live on TV on the Euronews channel and it will also be streamed live in a similar way to his London gig on 10/10/10 last year.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Live: Montgomery Mad Max cinéconcert

A final nod to the cinéconcerts that have been held by the Institut Francais d'Ecosse as part of the Edinburgh International Film festival with a mention of Montgomery's soundtrack for the film Mad Max, shown in Edinburgh on Thursday night.

For all Mad Max became a massive affair in the 1980s,and Mel Gibson became a major star, the first film of the trilogy was a low-budget production, carried more by its script and acting than by celebrity cameos and Hollywood gloss like the third movie.

Montgomery, a five piece from Rennes, bring an epic wide-screen flavour to the film that its film makers could only have dreamed of, taking it into the realms of Mogwai or Godspeed You Black Emperor post rock.

Montgomery play tonight (Friday) with Olivier Mellano who played earlier this week performing a soundtrack to the film Duel.

There is more information about the series of concerts in Edinburgh on the Institut Français d’Ecosse's website.

There is full information about the Edinburgh International Film festival on their website.

Mad Max vs Montgomery by nosno

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Festivals: Glastonbury - KKC Orchestra

This weekend sees the UK's best-known music festival take place in Glastonbury, and a few French acts will be taking the stage.

While perhaps not sharing the pyramid stage with Beyonce, U2 or Coldplay, there are a few Franch acts on the bill that are worth catching.

Pony Pony Run Run play at Club Dada on Saturday.

Mama Rosin play at the Avalon Stage on Friday.

I've features both these bands before, and they're certainly worth seeing.

Meanwhile, one band I've not featured so far but who are also on the bill are KKC Orchestra, who also plays Club Dada, Thursday Friday Saturday and Sunday.

The band, a four piece from Toulouse, released their first EP Dig Your Own Swing at the end of May.

They have a feelgood sound with a modern take of a jazzy swing, and seem the kind of band that would absolutely thrive in a live environment.

KKC Orchestra also plays three nights in Edinburgh in August during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Hopefully get along to see them if I can.

Live: NeirdA and Z3ro Le Prisonnier cinéconcert reviewed

There's a review of the Le Prisonnier Cinéconcert by NeirdA and Z3ro running on the STV Local Edinburgh website, along with a brief video interview.

I mentioned the show earlier this week, which was held at the Institut Francais in Edinburgh as part of the International Film Festival.

Writing on the STV Local Edinburgh website, Jonathon Melville, editor of the Reel Scotland website said: "With the musicians in such close proximity to the screen, and with the whole event so heavily geared towards the music, the projected action did tend to come second, with dialogue muffled or subtitles used instead.

"Targeted at those who are more interested in the audio than the visuals, or those who have seen the film before and don't mind losing track of the plot, the Cinéconcerts succeed in being an interesting diversion this EIFF rather than a must-see event."

The STV Local Edinburgh website also has a video interview with NeirdA and Z3ro talking about the show.

There is more information about the series of concerts in Edinburgh on the Institut français d’Ecosse's website.

There is full information about the Edinburgh International Film festival on their website.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Live : Olivier Mellano Duel cinéconcert

Guitarist Olivier Mellano plays the third of the Edinburgh International Fim Festival's cinéconcerts in the city on Wednesday, with a live soundtrack fot the film Duel, the first film directed by Steven Speilberg.

Its the latest in the season of events being staged in collaboration with the Institut Français d’Ecosse.

The film which was made in 1971, based on a short story by I am Legend writer Richard Matheson, is a tense and atmospheric affair that manages to maintain a claustrophobic feel despite its wide desert setting.

The film was originally intended as a TV movie before it was given a wider theatrical release, which required extra scenes to be filmed.

Suffice to say the film was a success, and Spielberg's career as a film director

The live soundtrack is performed by Mellano on his own, with just a guitar and multiple effects.

Mellano,from Rennes, has had an accomplished career as a musican, as both a guitarist and a violinist andcrosses the fields of rock, classical and avant garde experimentalism.

After studying music in Rennes he worked with a number of bands, helped found the Rrose Sélavy record label and worked with the bands Miossec and Dominique A. He has worked with the rap group Psykick Lyrikah and also collaborated with Francoise Breut, Laetitia Sheriff and yann Tiersen, amongst many others.

His band Mobiil have released two albums, combining electric, acoustic and electronic instruments, and an album La Chair des Anges presents his piece for electric guitars, string quartet, organ, harpsichords and vocals.

There is more information about the series of concerts in Edinburgh on the Institut français d’Ecosse's website and full information about the Edinburgh International Film festival on their website.

Mellano also performs in Glasgow on Thursday at a cinéconcert at the GFT in collaboration with the Alliance Français de Glasgow as part of their Fête de la Musique events, where he plays along to the 1927 FW Murnau movie Sunrise.

Rétro: Mylene Farmer - Les Mots

A wonderful version of Mylene Farmer's Les Mots from 2006, a live version from the Avant que l'Ombre a Bercy DVD.

The song was originally a duet with Seal, released in 2001 on her album of the same name. The Les Mots album remains her best selling album ever, and France's biggest selling ever greatest hits collection.

In this version, the male English language vocals are sung by Abe Laboriel JR, who was playing drums in Farmer's band. Seal was apparently asked to perform the duet at Farmer's 13 Bercy shows, but asked too much money so was replaced by Laboriel.

Abe Laboriel is a US session musician, who has also performed with Seal, Steve Vai, Eric Clapton and Lady Gaga. He is a regular member of Paul McCartney's band and has played live with him and on most of his albums for the last ten years.

To these ears he sound a bit like a more soulful Peter Gabriel, the song reminding me a little of the Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush duet Don't Give Up from the So album.

In comparison to Seal, I actually thing he does a better job of the song. True, Seal's a big star and no doubt that brought something to the song, but it must have been extraordinary to see this live. Realising that it was the drummer who was singing this duet must have been priceless.

The original video for Les Mots was a big budget production that referenced the Wreck of the Medusa painting, featuring the two singers, although Seal was not actually at the shoot and was added in later, the original filming featuring a body double.

Of course, the song having been associated with a big video makes it all the more difficult to stage live. No problems here as the video shows, the standard of the live production being higher than the live performances at mant international award shows.

Farmer's Bercy shows were not a tour as such, playing the same venue every night making it easier to design a stage that did not have to be broken down every night and transported,

Needless to day, in typical Mylene Farmer style, the Bercy DVD was the best selling music DVD ever in France.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Live: Bikini Machine - Desperado Cinéconcert

Another cinéconcert in Edinburgh tonight as part of the Edinbrugh International Film Festival, this time it's Desperado, the 1995 Robert Rodriguez film, the live music comeing from Bikini Machine from Rennes.

The film is being staged in collaboration with the Institut Français d’Ecosse.

It's an ultra-violent western by Robert Rodriguez, starring Antonio Banderas, although officially a sequel, it's not far off being a remake of his earlier film El Mariachi, a Spanish language movie that was made for just $7,000.

Desperado established Rodriguez's reputation as a director, his career continuing to this day.

He's known for his collaboration with Quentin Tarantino, who appears in the film, and Tarantino's influence could be felt throughout the film, one aspect being his use of music.

The original soundtrack features a strong latin flavour, with tracks by Los Lobos and Santana, and lesser-known US latin rock band Tito & Tarantula. There were also tracks by Dire Strats and Link Wray

The track Mariachi Suite by Los Lobos that appeared on the soundtrack won a Grammy in 1995.

Bikini Machine's most recent release "The Full Album" was released in 2009, and with their modern take on garage pop sound they sound like an ideal band for a Tarantino-style soundtrack, and they've certainly got the style and attitude to pull it off.

There is more information about the series of concerts in Edinburgh on the Institut français d’Ecosse's website and full information about the Edinburgh International Film festival on their website.

Festivals: Iggy and the Stooges at Hellfest, Clisson

I mentioned the Hellfest festival in Clisson the other week, so I thought it worth mentioning again to see one of the (many) acts that played the three-day event on June 17, 18 and 19.

More than 100 bands played the festival in Loire Atlantique, France's biggest metal fest and one that is now very much in the top tier of European metal events.

Friday night's headliners were Iggy and the Stooges,a band I've always associated with France. Maybe it's the fact that there have been so many Stooges albums released on French record labels, the seminal Metallic KO album documenting the band's last gig (before they reformed, obviously) coming out of Skydog records in 1976.

This release probably cemented the band's reputation, coming out as it did at the time of the early stirrings of the punk rock movement, which quickly adopted Iggy as an early icon.

Iggy Pop's most recent solo album Préliminaires was steeped in French influence, Iggy saying it was influenced by the work of Michel Houellebecq, and featuring a cover of the Kosma/Prevert song Les Feuilles Mortes in French. It was a very jazzy album, and a sophisticated work by a mature artist.

I'll link top that another day.

This however, is the Stooges in the raw, doing what they do best.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Fesivals: Fête de la Musique

June 21 is a significant date for French music fans, with the country marking the Fête de la Musique every year on that date.

Originally an initiative by the French ministry of culture, the event has been held every year since 1982, so this year marks its 30th anniversary.

Unlike the more commercial idea of what a music festival constitutes - ie a big event full of big names performing behind a big fence for the benefit of those that payed a big ticket price, the idea behind the Fête de la Musique is to make music accessible to everyone for free.

Performances take place in open areas like parks, museums and train stations, featuring musical events outwith their usual confines so that the public get a chance to experience sounds that they might not normally hear, by amateur or professional acts, well known or far from famous.

Young musicians get the chance to work with more established acts, performers get the chance to widen their audiences and showcase their skills and the public get a free cultural event on their doorstep. It's certainly something of a virtuous circle.

There are literally thousands of event taking place around France, including choirs, orchestras and bands, as well as more commercial rock and pop events.

This year sees iPhone and android apps available so that smart phone users can keep track of event taking place in their area.

Events are now held around the world to mark the occasion, with French cultural organisations promoting local events. We are some way from it being a well-known event in the UK, but we are gradually getting there, with events being held by organisations like the Alliance Francaise in Glasgow and the Institut Français d'Ecosse in Edinburgh as well as by the Institut Français in London.

Of course, not everyone has access to an event, in which case they should report to TV5 Monde's coverage on Tuesday night, with four hours of coverage from the Taratata programme at the place des Palais in Brussels featuring Colonel Reyel, Julien Doré, Nolwenn Leroy, Ziggy Marley, Yael Naim, Yannick Noah, Sexion d'Assaut, Martin Solveig, Stromaë and many others.

While every day on this blog is a celebration of French music, if you ever need an excuse to listen to some new music, today is certainly the day for it.

Live: NeirdA and Z3ro - Le Prisonnier Cinéconcert

There is a series of great concerts taking place in Edinburgh, Scotland, this week, featuring French bands performing live soundtracks for films as part of this year's Edinburgh International Film Festival.

The Cinéconcerts, staged in collaboration with the Institut français d’Ecosse, feature four different Breton bands performing new soundtracks to film works.

These are film works that were originally made with soundtracks rather than silent works that are being accompanied by a band. I've seen a couple of these, Nosferatu with Faust playing a soundtrack, and Storm over Asia with Tuvan band Yat Kha. French band Zombie Zombie who performed in the Glasgow Film festival earlier this year with their soundtrack for Battleship Potemkin.

But these are a different proposition altogether, and a riskier one.

Because these are works that already have soundtracks, the audience will come to them with certain expectations. Also there will be dialogue that the musicians will be required to work around. With a silent film the music can take the place of dialogue, but that's not possible here.

First up on Monday June 20 is NeirdA & Z3ro from Rennes with their take on 60s cult TV programme The Prisoner.

Given the iconic theme music for the series is so deeply ingrained, its fascinating to hear a slow menacing electro track being used instead. Its reminiscent of the darker work of Tangerine Dream in their earlier soundtracks.

At other times the duo conjure up a modern jazz-funk that works well with the 60s visuals.

Although it's on in Edinburgh, the Cinéconcert is also showing at various dates in France over the summer and later this year.

There is more information about the series of concerts in Edinburgh on the Institut français d’Ecosse's website and there are more details about the Prisoner Cinéconcert's later dates in France on myspace.

There is full information about the Edinburgh International Film festival on their website.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

French charts: Snoop Dogg v David Guetta

Nothing of note new in the French charts this week, all I've featured in previous weeks, but I thought it worth a link to the Snoop Dogg remix by David Guetta as I've not mentioned that one before.

Different from the Dogg's last big chart collaboration which was with Katy Perry, this track seems to fit in with a trend at the moment for US dance acts to collaborate with European DJs and prducers, maybe to bring a new flavour to their tracks

Guetta's already worked with Kelly Rowland, Kelis, Flo Rida and the Black Eyed Peas. His new album's due out in September.

This week's top five:

1)M Pokora: A nos Actes Manques
2)Magic System: Chérie Coco
3)Snoop Dogg: Sweat (Snoop Dogg v David Guetta remix)
4)René la Taupe: Ou la la
5)Jessie J: Price Tag

Friday, 17 June 2011

Rétro: Métal Urbain - Numéro Zéro

I've featured Métal Urbain before, but I make no excuse for featuring them again as they really merit greater recognition outside France.

They were a genuinely innovative bunch, subverting even the conventions of the apparently subversive punk genre.

Synths were in the 70s tended to be the reserve of the well-heeled progressive, while many punk bands limited their musical horizons by sticking to a formula that ruled out innovation and experimentation as indulgence.

Métal Urbain saw the possibilities offered by the likes of drum machines and the opportunity to make something that was genuinely new rather than simply covering old ground.

Perhaps that's why their music still sounds fresh, while many of their contemporaries quickly lapsed into reheating a rock 'n' roll template that was establilshed decades before.

To the modern audience it is a reminder that Electro has its roots in Suicide as much as Depeche Mode.

This track initially appeared on the bands 1980 debut album Les Hommes Morts sont Dangereux. The band had only released singles up to that point, the album collecting them and adding Peel session recordings of other songs. This version came from the 2008 Crève Salope mini album, which featured re-recordings of early songs by the band.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Charlotte Gainsbourg: Mémoir

Charlotte Gainsbourg's song Mémoire has been attracting some much-deserved attention now that it has been made available as a download.

To these ears it's very reminiscent of Jane Birkin's work, easy on the ear and jazzy but with a dark poetic undercurrent. It's just perfect.

The song was written by Conor O'Brien from Irish band Villagers after Charlotte approached him to write a song for her to perform. Although written by someone else, Charlotte completely owns the song.

The song makes me wonder what a collaboration between Charlotte Gansbourg and the Tindersticks might sound like. That's something that I'd certainly like to hear one day.

It originally surfaced as a limited edition seven inch single for Record Store Day in April. Read about it on an earlier blog posting. >

The song is expected to appear on a double CD due out later this year to be entitled Live and Unreleased, her first album release since 2009's IRM.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Charts: Sisi K & Logobi GT

Some new French music in the French top five this week, with Sisi K & Logobi GT's Elle Danse Sexy.

The track comes from the album la Puissance, which came out in November 2010.

The song combines an electro sound with an African style.

Logobi GT's record label Five Music say that Logobi has become the new dance phenonenon, taking over from Tektonic electro dance in the public spaces around the train stations, schools and colleges of Paris

The music has established itself with the young French African community, and will certainly be getting a lot of play over the summer.

Friday, 10 June 2011

News: Johnny Halliday TV concert

Johnny Hallyday - currently on tour across France at the moment - has recorded a live private concert and interview for Belgian French speaking channel Bel RTL. A clip of his performance at the Paris studio has been put out by the TV company ahead of its broadcast on June 12, just day's ahead of Johnny's 68th birthday.

The show was filmed on May 30, with an audience of 100 in the studio.

During the show he was interviewed, and played a couple of his hits "La Musique que j'aime", "Oh Jolie Sarah", "Gabrielle", "Fils de Personne" and "Tes Tendres Années" as well as two songs from his latest album "Jamais Seul", "La Douceur de Vivre" and "Guitar Hero"

Johnny sounds in fine voice for a man whose obituaries were all but published not so long ago. The serious health problems that seemed to herald the final act of a remarkable life are apparently behind him.

Johnny's also been in in the headlines for voicing his support for Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Johnny referring to the time he was accused of rape at a party in 2001. The charges brought about a year later, were finally dropped and he was cleared when the judge found that there was no evidence of a crime.

Speaking to TV Magazine, he said: "I was accused of rape, too. It's a story that pursued me and my family for two years! It was unfortunate for me, my wife and children before the lies of my accuser came out. Honestly, I think we went through a terrible..."

From September he's appearing on stage in Paris at the Théâtre Edouard VII in a play, Le Paradis sur terre, by Tennessee Williams.

He is also reported to be featuring in a film - Sleight of Hand - alongside Mel Gibson, Kiefer Sutherland and Gérard Depardieu. The film is a Paris-set tale of a team of burglars who inadvertently steal a rare gold coin belonging to a gangster.

Meanwhile, next year also sees a major tour over France, and there have already been over 100,000 tickets sold for the shows. Good to see Johnny going from strength to strength.

Johnny Hallyday interprète "Oh ma Jolie Sarah"... by rtl-fr

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Fesivals: Hellfest, Clisson

While this weekend sees the Download festival in the UK's Donnington Park, France's biggest Rock festival Hellfest takes place in Clisson Loire Atlantique, on June 17, 18 and 19.

Hellfest - which has sold out all its three day tickets a month ahead of the event for the first time - has been running for five years, and has established itself as one of the major events in Europe's summer rock schedule. Last year over 70,000 people attended the event.

There are headline slots by Iggy and the Stooges, Scorpions and Ozzy Ozbourne, others on the bill including big names like Judas Priest, the Cult, Rob Zombie and Zakk Wylde's Black Label Society.

While there's classic rock from the likes of Thin Lizzy, Hawkwind and UFO, there are also less-mainstream cult acts like Down, Mayhem, Cradle of Filth and Opeth.

It's an unsurprisingly heavy line up and one that caters for fans of all types of extreme music from commercially successful classic to underground legends. It certainly reflects the the variety of sub genres to what used to be just referred to as 'metal' with Black Metal (Mayhem), Folk Metal (Turisas), Hardcore (Bad Brains), Punk (The Exploited), Thrash (Municipal Waste), Doom (Church of Misery) and Progressive (Anathema) all on the bill.

Previous headliners included Kiss who played as part of their European tour in 2010. Video from their set at Clisson is below, and having seen them when the played in Scotland during the tour it would have been quite a something to see them at a major outdoors festival. The picture at the top was taken by me at the Glasgow show.

Manowar headlined in 2009, Slayer in 2008, so the festival organisers certainly know both their audience and the bands that will make the most of the gig.

The festival has has some controversy, with right-wing MPs criticising the 'satanic' festival, and while Coca Cola stopped their support, Kronenbourg payed no heed to similar pressure.

Rétro: THX - Telstar (Richard Pinhas)

A track today by THX, a pseudonym used by Richard Pinhas for this single, a cover of 60s instrumental Telstar.

It sounds to me like what the Joe Meek instrumental - performed originally by the Tornados - from 1962 would sound like if it was beamed into space on the communication satellite of the same name, and a group of aliens heard it and sent their own version back to earth.

It's a more commercial proposition than much of Pinhas's other work, and could easily be enjoyed by those with no knowledge of his more progressive and experimental work.

It was released in 1978, a fertile time for Pinhas, the same year as his Chronolyse solo album and betweeh Heldon's interface (1977) and Stand By (1979)

Telstar was a space rock tune well before the term had any currency in the hands of bands like Hawkwind, Meek - an early pioneer of the possibilities of the recording studio - consciously attempting to make a record incorporating sound effects to evoke a space-like sound. It was the first single by a British act to get to number one in the USA.

Meek was subject to a plagiarism claim from French composer Jean Ledrut who claimed that the tune had been copied from a piece from the 1960 film Austerlitz. The claim was resolved in Meek's favour, although the judgement came after his death.

Of course, the French connection with Telstar runs deeper, with the actual Telstar satellite, which was launched in 1962, carrying TV pictures across the Atlantic from the USA to Pleumeur-Bodou in Brittany.

The THX track is available on the Japanese CD Richard Pinhas: Single Collection 1972-1980 on the Captain Trips label.

I'll have on Richard Pinhas on the website very soon.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Festivals: Bruce Springsteen at Vieilles Charrues

Bruce Springsteen played the Vieilles Charrues Festival in Carhaix in Finistère, Brittany in 2009.

The festival - France's biggest music festival - is a four-day event, with 240,000 people attending last year.

It has been running since 1992, and was originally held in the village of Landeleau in Brittany, and has continued to grow ever since, attracting bigger audiences and bigger acts year after year.

In the same way that T in the Park retains a Scottish flavour, the Vieilles Charrues Festival retains a Breton character despite featuring both international acts and artists from across France.

The video shows how The Boss learned how to speak to the crowd in Breton, his teacher being asked if he spoke the language as Bruce wanted to address the crowd in Breton. He wrote phonetically the phrase he wanted to say: Hello Carhaix, how are you doing?

The 2011 Vieilles Charrues Festival takes place from July 14-17, and features Scorpions, Pulp, Kaiser Chiefs, David Guetta, Lou Reed and the Chemical Brothers and PJ Harvey.

Whether any of them take the time to learn some Breton remains to be seen.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Rétro: Blur and Francoise Hardy

A great archive piece here, and much more recent that the 1960s videos I've featured in the past.

The song originally featured on the band's 1994 album Parklife, their third, which was very much the band's breakthrough album.

For a band so associated with the Britpop scene, and with London in particular, Blur were always a cleverer band than their contemporaries, a fact that has been borne out with band members' subsequent careers.

The original version featured some French lyrics sung by Stereolab's Laetitia Sadier, and a full French version featuring Blur vocalist Damon Albarn singing in French was featured as one of the extra tracks on the Park Life single release.

This version featuring Francoise Hardy was recorded the following year, and was released as a single in France and appeared on French editions of the band's 1995 album The Great Escape. The album went gold in France and had a far higher chart placing than Park Life.

I much prefer this version to the version that just featured Albarn on vocals, which was to these ears at least lacking in a certain je ne sais quoi.

The French connection for the song goes further, with the video based on the French film Last Year in Marienbad, the enigmatic 1961 film that is for many the archetypal vintage French art house film. While some see it as a byword for arthouse pretension and wilful obscurity, it's worth remembering that screenwriter Alain Robbe-Grillet was nominated for an Oscar for his work, not something that you might expect for such a highbrow film from the pen of one of France's most celebrated experimental authors.

Monday, 6 June 2011

New: Martin Solveig - Ready 2 Go

A quick mention of Martin Solveig again, on account of his playing on Glasgow at the weekend as part of Coloursfest, a dance and music event that has been held in the city for the last ten years.

Coloursfest has been Scotland's longest-running dance event, with 10,000 people attending the event over five arenas at Braehead and Clyde waterfront, Solveig playing as a special guest.

Solveig's latest single Ready 2 Go has not long been released in the UK, and it's already getting airplay on the music TV channels, probably because it makes a more than decent job of following up the remarkable video for Hello.

Over 7 million people watched that video, which was filmed live at the Roland Garros tennis stadium in Paris, on YouTube. The new video takes things quite a bit further, with the quirky DJ and producer backed with a team of majorettes taking to the field of France's national stadium.

The song features vocal contribution by Kele, vocalist with the UK indie band Bloc Party.

This video was shot live at Stade de France, and while stadium rock is nothing new, the idea of filming a house music video live in front of a football crowd is a bold one, and a move that certainly works well here.

Solveig's album Smash - his fifth - is due to be released later this month.

Charts: René La Taupe

An update on the top end of the French charts, and a new one in the top five for France's David Guetta, who seems to be contining his programme of collaborating with all the biggest international names.

Meanwhile, M Pokora and Magic System continue to remain in the top five, and an appearance by Anglo act Jessie J.

However, there's a significant new French entry from René La Taupe, who continues to raise the artistic standard of the French music charts.

It follows the classic that was Mignon Mignon which went to number one, and the under-rated Tu Parles Trop, which went to number three.

OK, I can't keep it up. It's rubbish. Utter rubbish. Like Crazy Frog but more rubbish.

It does however seem a long time since there was a novelty record in the top five in the UK. Maybe cynical X Factor marketing and the torrent of US product has killed them off forever in the UK.

Also worth noticing how the French charts still give a good showing for domestic acts, while in the UK the number of home-grown acts seems to be falling drastically.

This has led to some media in Britain reporting calls for a "French-like quota system", (read article here > )

as the only way to keep up the profile of British music in the face of European dance music and American hip hop and R'n'B.

Changed times indeed.

This week's top five in France:

1) M Pokora: A Nos Actes Manques
2) Snoop Dogg: Sweat (Snoop Dogg Vs. David Guetta remix)
3) Magic System: Chérie Coco
4) Jessie J: Price Tag
5) René La Taupe: Ou la la

Thursday, 2 June 2011

New: Justice - Civilisation

The new single from Justice finally gets its full release and video treatment.

The song got a preview when it was used for the soundtrack of an advert for Adidas earlier this year >

The video was directed by Edouard Salier and it's a change from the band's previous video work with Romain Gavras, who directed the band's Stress video. Civilisation is more poetic and subtle, and less confrontational.

It bodes well for their long-awaited second album, their previous Cross album which came out in 2007 setting a new standard for innovative French music.

The song has a grandeur and an epic feel, as well as being a stomping tune. There will certainly be some fiery remixes of this to look forward to.

As yet there are no details of the second album. The image the band posted may or may not be the cover, but whatever comes out, and whenever it arrives, it looks like it's going to be great.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

New: Mylène Farmer - Lonely Lisa video

A new video from Mylène Farmer, with Lonely Lisa becoming the third song from 2010's Bleu Noir to be released as a single.

The album seems to have surpassed even Farmer's standards of success. Despite being released in December it was one of the top ten biggest sellers of the year, and the formula of Mylène Farmer collaborating with big hitters Moby and RedOne seems to be a winning combination.

Lonely Lisa is one of the album's two RedOne collaborations, the other, Oui mais...non, coming out ahead of the album's release and setting the tone the album in both success and style.

The video - directed by Roy Raz - will no doubt spark the Lady Gaga comparisons. While the debate will rage, some no doubt saying Gaga was influenced by Farmer and borrowed her ideas, or that Farmer is borrowing some of Gaga's style to boost her career, what's certain is that Gaga's international success has probably made it easier for female artists to be heard, and ones with ideas like Mylène Farmer can certainly make the most of the opportunity.

The video certainly keeps up Farmer's reputation for making videos that are an essential element of her art.

A batch of remixes of the track has already emerged.

With a record 11 number one singles in France so far, and the two previous songs from Bleu Noir - Oui mais...non and the title track - both reaching the top spot, it will be interesting to see if this makes it 12.

Personally I'd be surprised if it doesn't.

New: IMG - Dans les prisons de Nantes

A great version of the Breton song Dans Les prisons de Nantes by ska punk band IMG.

The song, originally writted in the 17th Century, has been sung previously by Edith Piaf, Nana Mouskouri and Breton folk band Tri Yann.

It also recently featured on the number one album by Nolwenn Leroy. Needless to say this version is a little different.

With a punk rock attitude and a ska swing, and a taste of rock, rap and ragga, IMG brew up a strong chouchenn of sound.

The band cemented their reputation by playing at Fest Noz events in Brittany where, despite their different take on tradition, they were met with acceptance by those who enjoy Breton music. They say that this is down to those who enjoy Breton music have open minds, and know that the Fest Noz tradition still has many years to run.

The band have also made available a free download of a couple of their demos. Listen to them here >

Their new album is due out in September 2011 on Rennes-based punk rock label Mass Productions and I'm certainly keen to hear more by them.

They are playing some dates over the summer, and are set to play more across Brittany following the release of the album.

Editorial: June 2011

A quick monthly editorial to again thank folks for visiting the website over the past month. It's been another great month which sees the upward trend in visitor numbers continue.

I've also heard some great French music over the last few weeks, with events like the Eurovision Song Contest putting the international focus on French music, and some great new releases coming out that I've had the chance to feature.

More reviews to come this month, time permitting, and I'm pleased that I've been able to keep the blog updates regular throughout the month.

I'll keep a regular eye on the French charts, and continue to feature some of the best new releases, so be sure to visit regularly throughout the month.

As always, I can be contacted by email at the address johnkilbride AT hotmail DOT com , with the spaces and the appropriate @ and . in the address.

Merci et à bientôt