Wait… What is French Touch ?
All fans of electronic music or frequenting nightclubs around the world have already danced on house music produced in France and other classics of the French Touch. While in the major cities of the United States and the United Kingdom this kind of festive music is already well known by nightlife regulars in major cities, it will take a little longer before this style really gets to launch in France. It is during the 90s that some French DJs will take the codes and sounds of the style to launch the phenomenon in France.
8 February 2018
Wait… What is French Touch ?
This new French wave, however, declines from the traditional House Music by specific characteristics that are unique and that we did not find before in this register, as the use of samples, that is to say extracts of already existing music, often drawn from funk and disco music. But one of the strengths of the French Touch is that it has over time been renewed, and the new artists have in turn found inspiration in other musical styles such as rock for bands like Justice for example.
From Laurent Garnier to the group Daft Punk, via David Guetta, several artists have allowed this “made in France » house music to export and continue to become a well-known register in the nightlife everywhere in the world. New artists took over and became the new standard bearers of French music on the international scene.
Where does this music come from, when did it explode, who are the main actors and what are the best-known titles, this is what we will discover in this article!
When France was still sulking the House
Laurent Garnier: the messiah of the House Music in France.
In France, the establishment of this new musical style is rather difficult. The population prefers to be confined to the hits being massively broadcast on the radio and the styles they already know and which it is used like rock for example. Originally in the late 80s, a few parties were organized in some Parisian nightclubs like the Palace. Some DJs, including Laurent Garnier, have already had the opportunity to discover the world of the House Music by getting acquainted with the London parties. He was thus the first in France to start playing the most famous records and to try to adopt this new culture. However, this does not extended the popularity of House music because few people visited these clubs and it attracted a small group of insiders in a rather confidential atmosphere. At this time, the regulars of these parties do not have many solutions if they want to listen to House music: either they opt for these parties between electronic music enthusiasts, or they can go to some record stores. So it’s difficult to really democratize the style in these conditions!
The musical crisis in Britain
On the other side of the Channel however, the style is already well established in the nightlife in England, whether in cities like London or Manchester where parties are organized, bringing together many young people who wanted to party. House music became very popular and opens up a lot. However, in 1988, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher banned rallies around techno and house music because violent altercations occurred between partygoers and police. Young English people, lacking nocturnal places to listen to the music they love and party, decide to export their musical trends and their evenings in Europe, especially in Paris.
A boon for France
While French people knew of house parties in England only through the press, they will finally have the opportunity to take a closer look. Indeed, more and more English people come to France to organize parties, the line-ups become more and more interesting, and the young French party-goers, having then only little knowledge of this universe, will discover the raves and new DJs of great renown abroad. The arrival of the English scene in France will greatly contribute to the emergence of young French artists. These artists have fed on many influences, from their first love for rock, soul, funk or hip-hop, but also by these new sounds and British underground labels freshly landed. This is what makes the richness of this new French scene: a great musical diversity. We are now at the beginning of the 90s, and this new wave is gradually going up and becoming in vogue.
When France sets out to conquer the world!
The French Touch: French creativity
From 1994 French artists began to produce their own titles, which were successful and were even praised by the British critics. The music produced by these French artists is still distinguished from the British scene, by a greater musical openness and more diversity in the sounds. The songs produced can indeed have a slightly more rock or a little more funk orientation for example. As a result, professionals and other experts will begin to make a distinction by trying to categorize the French House: this is how the term “French Touch” will appear. This shows that French house music is clearly identifiable and that, although inspired by traditional house, it has its own codes and characteristics and makes it a unique style. This French Touch movement is attracting more and more Europeans and especially English who listen to more and more French artists and wish to spend parties in French clubs. There is a lot of creative work behind the House in France, the universe is neat, the artists are inspired by their youth, funk, disco, but also video games and futuristic movies. They managed to create a unique graphic universe, vintage but also very modern. New artists then appear.
Saint-Germain: the alchemist who revolutionized the House in France
Saint-Germain, real name Ludovic Navarre, is inspired by a multitude of styles, and you can hear it if listen to his music! Among the albums considered as the most outstanding of the French Touch, Boulevard was released in 1995. This album was praised by the British press and by various American artists, which is at that time important enough to point out. Delicate, intelligent music, rooted in jazz and soul sounds that are the main inspirations of the composer. For the composition of this album, he called on real musicians to recreate as faithfully as possible a blues universe and mix it with electronic sounds. It is a perfect mix and very well produced which seduces the amateurs of electronic music, and especially made proud the French of the House “made in France”!
Air: the UFO of French Touch
If there is one group that could be difficult to put in a drawer, it is the duo Air formed by Jean-Benoit Dunckel and Nicolas Godin. These two artists propose a journey in a universe of their own, a delicate and sweet universe among all their contemporaries whose purpose was to make people dance. A mix of electronic sounds, vocoder but also pop and psychedelic rock, an original combination that made the band famous internationally and the success of their first album Moon Safari in 1998, especially with the title Sexy Boy.
Daft Punk: the world’s best-known robot duo
The robots of Daft Punk and their helmets, it is a legend that continues for almost 20 years now! Although several pictures appear on the web where we can see the two members with open face a few years ago, Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo, they wanted to keep a part of anonymity by not publicly appearing and always appearing with their helmet. Previously rock band, this duo is one of the emblems of the French Touch known with the album Homework in 1998 and the titles Da Funk or Around The World. Doing few live shows, each of their appearance is an event that nobody wants to miss as their live performances are incredible, as for example Alive 2007 which continues to mark the spirits for the beauty of the show, the scenography and the games of lights. With an album every 4 or 5 years, Daft Punk keep making people dance on the planet with electronic music as no one else can do.
Etienne de Crecy: when the House becomes “Discount”
Originally, Etienne de Crecy became known as a sound engineer in the studio and participated in the production of albums of French artists from various backgrounds, such as MC Solaar for example. And that’s probably what contributed to its originality and musical openness. He finally enters the scene by teaming up with Philippe Zdar of the Cassius band to form the band Motorbass and release one of the albums that is qualified as one of the most striking for the French Touch: Pansoul. Since then, Etienne de Crécy has released in 1998 a rather original project, Super Discount, on which all the tracks relate to the world of sales and department stores. A rather groovy universe, just like the graphic universe of the project: the words “Super Disount” written with a retro typography on a very flashy colorful background. This compilation was a great success, so it has gone through several parts, Super Discount 2 and Super Discount 3 a few years later.
Also in 1998 came Stardust’s Music Sounds Better With You, which is considered a true emblem, the anthem of the French Touch movement and still very successful today.
The most surprising thing is that, while in England and elsewhere, these French artists are very successful, begin to draw light on them and to be broadcast in clubs and some radios, the French still have a hard time accepting and understand that this kind of music can be broadcast on the radio and can represent France abroad. Few French radio have ventured to broadcast these tracks of a new genre, far from the melodic lyrics of other artists. At that time, few French artists had managed to capture the attention of other countries that did not consider France as a real nest of artistic talents and hit songs. However, when the attention of an international audience arose on the French House scene, the French themselves began to be more attentive to this new trend. The French Touch movement has conquered the world with its rather festive sounds, often drawn from the disco and funk tracks of the time, mixed with more modern and futuristic sounds and a great diversity of production. In addition there are rarely words, and if there are, they are in English, which makes the music more accessible and universal.
The French Touch: influence from generation to generation
The French Touch 2.0
In the 2000s, new artists stamped “French Touch” come to fuel the movement, bringing their lots of novelties and originality. The disco and funk sounds are a little less present for the majority of these artists, although some like Breakbot and his inevitable “Baby I’m Yours” perpetuate the aspect “groovy” of the style. The other artists get into productions a little more underground, like Mr. Oizo and his first hit song “Flat Beat” or the group Justice whose first albums are more inspired by rock and techno roots, harder sounds that quickly seduced a whole new generation of lovers of electronic music. This is perhaps the strength of the French House scene: its ability to renew itself and expand its inspirations to other musical fields. David Guetta and his track Love Do not Let Me Go released in 2002 also marked the French scene and is one of the tracks that has the most marked the 2000s in France.
The French Touch generation is expanding its territory
All artists from the French Touch generation are not much publicized in France. Only a few radios like Virgin Radio broadcast more and more tracks of artists like Breakbot, Justice, Cassius or Kavinsky. The broadcast of these pieces is done more on the Internet or in festival for live performances.
There are also some clubs in France offering a little more specific line-up that are intended for listeners wishing to avoid the “mainstream” music that can be heard on the radio or in traditional discotheques that broadcast mainly EDM, Electro Dance Music. These clubs attract House and Techno enthusiasts from all over the world, and many Europeans love to spend weekends in other European cities discovering these increasingly successful clubs. Indeed, more and more people are giving up the commercialized music to take an interest in the more underground scenes of clubs on which are illustrated artists not very well-known to the general public. This growing popularity lets us predict that House music still has a bright future ahead.
House Music in France has attracted fans of electronic music and even cross borders to be the heyday of clubs around the world. The French Touch movement is now well known to all international fans who have a lot of respect for the “French House” they consider one of the best scenes in the world and are inspired by it.