(Disque Pointu / IDOL)
Few bands have invigorated French pop like La Femme over the last decade, and in 2021, they’re coming to make all of our lives better. Paradigmes, the much-awaited third album from the Paris-based, Biarritz band, offers a shift in how we see the world, a kaleidoscopic vortex to a different, more vibrant dimension.
La Femme have always assimilated the sounds that surround them. Their 2013
debut album Psycho Tropical Berlin paid homage to kosmische, surf rock and cold
wave; the followup – 2016’s Mystère – hybridised elements of psych disco, Egyptian
iconography and intoxicating flavours of 90’s Motown hip hop. It’s music for the
internet age that draws on vintage and eclectic good taste, where playful, sonic
Dadaist collages are turned into something ebullient and remarkable, strewn with
lyrics that are feisty, funny, philosophical and sometimes forlorn.
The two main songwriters who started the band together, Sacha Got and Marlon
Magnée, are the traditional heart of La Femme, and their vision is consolidated on
stage by the masterful rhythm section of Sam Lefevre and Noé Delmas (bass and
drums, respectively), and sublimated by the vocal talents of female singers like
Alma Jodorowsky, Clara Luciani, Clémence Quélennec, Grâce Hartzel and Jane
Peynot: “There are quite a lot of jazz musicians on this album,” say Got and
Magnée, “and loads of female singers – as there were on the previous records. The
banjo player on ‘Disconnexion’ comes from Memphis. But as always, there are no
official featured artists or guest star appearances.”
Within this album of beautifully-curated electropop you will hear everything from
coldwave to yéyé, Kraftwerk to Velvet Underground, all distilled and sequenced and psychedelicized so that it sounds uniquely La Femme. The title track is a brassy blast of sizzling electro that imbues the spirit of flappers and philosophers, cabaret and art deco and Fritz Lang’s masterpiece Metropolis, all underpinned with a touch of lyrical melancholy. These retrofuturist influences are brought to the fore in the video too, and we’ve also been promised a La Femme feature film that’s currently in post-production which has been described as a cross between Monty Python and Phantom of the Paradise!
Paradigmes too is cinematic; a celluloid-like window into a playful alternative
universe where travelling far and wide is still the order of the day. It’s a psychogeographic and sometimes psychotropic trawl which includes a detour to
the apricot gardens of the Iberian Peninsula on the gorgeous Spanish language
ballad ‘Le Jardin’. ‘Foreigner’ meanwhile is a synthpop banger recited in English.
Speaking of which, America is an important part of Paradigmes, and its rugged
landmass looms large. At the album’s heart is a triptych of songs with titular US
place names, some conjured from experience, and others dredged up from the
imagination. ‘Cool Colorado’ melts the senses majestically as it recounts a glorious
smoke in the Rockies; ‘Pasadena’ is a moody rap song set at school, and ‘Nouvelle
Orléans’ swirls with swooping backwards electric guitars and forward-looking
electro arpeggios, peripatetic bass and breakbeats.
Furthermore ‘Le sang de mon prochain’ is a vampire love song that’s related to the
myth of the succubus, and instrumental ‘Lâcher de chevaux’ evokes spaghetti
westerns seen through the eyes of Italian geniuses like Enio Morricone and Giorgio Moroder, lassoing Americana and giving it a distinctly European feel. And let’s not forget ‘Foutre le bordel’, a song that perhaps remains best untranslated, a kickass motorik punk party anthem that also could have been produced by Moroder and performed by the specter that possessed Plastic Bertrand.
“Geography must be important to us because of the fact we travelled quite a lot
over the last few years, and different places brought different inspiration to us. We
like the folklore of places and what comes out of them.” As a band of great
international standing who’ve played everywhere, from Glastonbury, Austin Psych
Fest, Sziget, to Music Wins in Argentina, they are looking to stand on their own feet with this coming self-produced release, going fully independent in partnership with their distributors Idol for all regions. And let’s hope they’ll be able to reach some of those regions next year too.
“A bit like everyone else, it is very hard to plan anything or to know when we are
going to be able to play again. We try to plan things, but given the current situation, we have not announced any concert yet.” La Femme’s legendary live shows are aesthetically rich and decadently bawdy, like catwalk runways crossed with Caligula, though we may have to enjoy the adventures of Paradigmes from the
comfort of our own homes, like that great dandy armchair explorer des Esseintes in the symbolist classic À rebours. Whatever happens, La Femme’s next record will
definitely brighten up 2021 that little bit more. Paradigmes is a record that lives in
the moment, even if that moment is a challenge right now.