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French Touch

24 Mar

Want the lowdown on French Touch? No, it’s not a seduction technique.

French Touch is a type of house music pioneered in the 90s by artists like Daft Punk, Cassius, Etienne de Crecy and Air.

I won’t bore you with the details (apparently ‘most tracks in this vein feature steady 4/4 beats with a tempo range of 110–130 beats per minute.’ Thanks, Wikipedia.) It’s basically house music with notes of electro and disco thrown in, performed by French artists.

The term was actually coined by an Englishman. Journalist Martin James used it in his 1996 review of the first Super Discount EP by Etienne de Crecy. The term took off in the French media and became a recognisable musical genre by the late 90s.

Who can forget Daft Punk‘s catchy rhythms? The most well-recognised French Touch duo (Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem Christo) met at school in Versailles, and are famous for their club anthems and eccentric get-ups. Who knew posh boys – or indeed anyone – could party like this pre-Gaga?

Air (Jean-Benoît Dunckel and Nicolas Godin) are a personal favourite. Their work on film soundtracks is particularly interesting, namely on Sophia Coppola’s “Virgin Suicides” in 1999 and their psychedelic 2011 soundtrack for the restored version of George Melies’s iconic “Voyage dans la Lune.” This is one of their best-loved songs:

The term has been much used and abused, and can now be applied to almost any electronic French group or DJ. Bob Sinclair and Justice are good examples of how French Touch has evolved.

Justice have achieved international success since 2007 with their electro pop tunes like “D.A.N.C.E”. Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay’s latest album has more of a rock feel, but could still be described as French Touch. In my opinion, any label that gets French music recognised internationally can’t hurt!


La guerre des post-it

15 Aug

A strange craze is sweeping Paris offices. Rivalry amongst companies is no longer measured by which is the most successful, but rather by whose employees can make the best picture… out of post-it notes.

post its paris office

Post-it creations are inspired by video game characters

It may sound like the kind of fad made popular in the playground, but French businessmen are getting stuck in and making colourful collages on their office windows. The aim of the game: to create better designs than the office opposite.

‘La guerre des post-it’ as it is known began in January between Ubisoft games company and BNP Paribas in Montreuil.

Word of mouth and summertime (read: lazy Parisians who think it’s their divine right not to work in August) have meant that in the last three weeks the craze has spread all over Paris.

But isn’t it a waste of time? Employers are arguing that the sense of teamwork and positive competition it fosters can only benefit the company in question. Personally, I can’t see the appeal of wasting hours making a man out of multicoloured post-it notes but I’m glad someone does, and am enjoying the mood lightning effect it’s had on the newsroom.

Fierce competition amongst Parisian office blocks

The phenomenon was reported by most major media companies. It seems incredible that while Britain is at war on the streets, the French are battling each other with post-it notes…

Watch this report by Le Figaro to find out more.

Your views about France

8 Feb

It’s over to you…What do you like/dislike about France?

“I like the food in France, the countryside, the Alps, the southern beaches, the coffee, the ice cream, the wine. I dislike the roads, especially how you have to give way to people turning out!” Sophie Askew.

“I love the sarcastic/cynical sense of humour, and the fact that generally we bitch about everything but in a light way not in an annoying grumpy way, but dislike the utter arrogance of certain groups in France, and the very rigid elite education system where only the name of your school matters.” Claire Marx.

bottle of french red wine

Quality French wine comes top of the league

“Dislike: dog poo. Like: Their general ‘je m’en fous’ attitude. Nicola Hebden.

“I like the food…the duck stuff (aka confit de canard.) Wandering through Paris is very nice, especially when it was sunny on the Champs Elysees. Can’t think of any dislikes…” Will Miles.

“The food and wine being amazing, living on bread and cheese/wine being acceptable. I guess people can be a bit off/rude? Paris also feels very exclusive, it’s easy to feel like an uncool tourist.” Lucy Thackray.

“I love the food, the beauty of the cities and countryside, the language, the dress sense, the amazing culture… I dislike the elitist education system, the fact that the arts are undervalued career-wise, the unfriendliness/rudeness (especially when it comes to customer service/bureaucracy), the closed-minded mentality and snobbishness of some people.” Emilie Jarrett.

“I’ve only been once but loved skiing in Chamonix!” Robbie Lesbriel.

“I think the place the food takes in france’s traditions is really important. The way it frames the day and makes wine drinking a civil thing… Also the cafe culture instead of pubs avoids the binge drinking problem we have in the UK!” Margot Jourdan.

“The timelesness of it and the pride in tradition and culture…but mostly the FOOD.” Harri Davies.

sign banning dog poo

Dog poo is one of people's pet peeves in Paris

“I LOVE the food. The fact you can get good wine at a cheap price. The cafe culture, and all the lovely gardens (but maybe that’s more Paris). The art collections too. On the downside, thesnobisme, the strikes, the french shrug and those godawful puffa jackets.” Lucy Smail.

“Likes: pain au chocolat, cheese and wine. Dislikes: the prominence of mullets (in the North of France anyway) and denim + denim combos.” Andy McNicoll.

“Pommes frites and mayonnaise! And of course the French accents.” Rebecca Prescott.

“Hate: the dog poo everywhere, the tramps in the south, the greves and politicised students and rude Parisiens. Love: the food, the importance of family, Sancerre, the language (that’s my favourite), the trains that are like Harry Potter and the TGV and the wine.” Hollie Bond.

Feel free to add more!

French commercial radio – a real earful

4 Nov

French radio is obliged by law to comply to a 40% French song ratio. This supposedly promotes French national identity in a world dominated by big Anglophone superstars.

How many of you have heard of last summer’s huge hits by Nadiya, Superbus or rap collective Sexion D’Assault? Didn’t think so… there’s probably a reason. Much of French commercial music is shockingly bad. Yet these songs are still massively overplayed on popular Parisian radio stations such as NRJ or Voltage.

Of course there’s David Guetta, definitely in the running for most famous Frenchman du jour. But as a DJ featuring massive American stars who sing in English on his records, he hardly counts.

It seems the French have found a new way to get around this law. They are well aware of the fact most of their audience want to hear popular songs from beyond the hexagon. Therefore: the Franglais blend is born.

Listen to this – the French version of Jason Derulo’s ‘Watcha Say’.

Some verse and chorus parts have been badly dubbed by a French woman who seems to confuse singing with whining. Jason’s still chimes in every now and again though, hooray.

This is sadly a growing trend on Parisian radio. Another more successful example is:

Lily Allen featuring Ours sounded horribly wrong at first. The lyrics are very longwinded and have little to do with the original ones. It grows on you… but Ours should be making his own songs catchier instead of riding on Lily’s coattails.

Innovation and quality content is seriously lacking on most of the radio stations in the Paris area. Compared to the myriad of shows and music range available on British radio, it’s repetitive and uninspiring.

So I say forget the law, or at least play some decent French music.

Opinions welcome.