July 18th, 2006


The news from Paris

For a self-proclaimed post-national person like me, what's odd is just how national my music taste has been over the last few years. In the mid-90s I was mostly into Japanese pop. Late 90s, early 00s I veered towards German electronica. Since about 2001, it's been Francophone gloop music which has floated my boat -- Scratch Pet Land, DJ Elephant Power, DAT Politics, and the Paris artists associated with the Active Suspension and Clapping Music labels.

Luckily, here on Click Opera I have a sort of conceptual copy-editing going on in the form of comments from my ever-intelligent readers. "You're not post-national," someone pointed out last week, "but trans-national". That's exactly right. I don't wish to deconstruct national flavours -- in fact, I love constructions like "Frenchness" and "Japaneseness". I just see them as arbitrary. They're fixed essences, cultures, ways to live. But anyone can embrace them, and anyone can escape them. You can have a culture of origin and a culture of destination, a work culture and a play culture.

For whatever reason -- and it may just be that something interesting is going on there -- Paris has become my exemplary music city. So here's a little dispatch from Paris, with reports of what my favourite artists are up to.

O.LAMM's third full-length album is called "Monolith", and will be released at around the same time as the Momus Ocky Milk record, ie Septemberish. "Monolith" has something else in common with "Ocky Milk": me! I do a rap on a track called "Syllabus of Errors". It's about khaki teriyaki and Pope Pius IX, who said popes were infallible, and issued a "Syllabus of Errors", condemning democracy, freedom of the press, religious pluralism, and belief in progress. A monolith indeed! Hear some advance tracks here.

"Monolith" also features vocals by Kumi Okamoto of Konki Duet. Kumi now has a solo project, Kumi Solo. You can hear her Casio-toned tracks on her (yuk!) MySpace page. (The "yuk" has become part of the MySpace brand in my mind, like a registered trade mark.) The wonderful Shobo Shobo organization (the brainchild of Mehdi Hercberg) continues. On 12th January Kumi Solo performed at a Shobo Shobo concert held at La Générale. The photos make me sigh with a big, happy sigh, for some reason.

There are also more conceptual events, like Jukebox + Humain, a sound installation featuring various well-known Shobette musicians (Noak Katoi, My Jazzy Child, Minifer) responding to people holding up textual textural instructions relayed via video to their trestle table. "Airy!" "Sharper!" and "Claydermann!" were some of the instructions. Others got more abstract, by getting more specific: "Pour ou contre le CPE?" read one, referring to the employment legislation disputes which have recently riven France. Watch a movie of the event here.

Last but not least, my favourite pop record of the summer has been by the absurdly under-rated Parisian Hypo: The Correct Use of Pets, his record with Emmanuelle de Hericourt. Well, now you can watch an amusing video of a track from that record featuring Hypo, EDH, and a cast of rats.

Finally, let's not forget old friends. After a year in Tokyo, Digiki is back in Paris. And Toog has become a film-maker, playing here on images of national particularity in his usual droll way. "This is a delicacy from the South of France."

The news from Paris isn't all good, though. Anne Laplantine, herself now living back in the French capital, has declared she's giving up music and is concentrating exclusively on playing go, a game she discovered last year at the Koi Klub, the Japanese nightclub in Berlin. This great artist, who could be the Marianne of the French music scene, has been corrupted, it seems, by orientalism!