Endless wonders

If you, like me, relish the electro-pop fantasia of French bands such as Phoenix and M83, then welcome to the Magritte-styled, make-believe world of La Femme.

Originally from Biarritz, an old ancient whaling town near the Spanish border, the sextet upped and headed for the capital Paris, where they gallivant and dress up in spiffy threads as if they were extras in a French New Wave film, rather than, say, the grungy, torn-jeaned, goth children of Nirvana.

All these visual accoutrements enhance their sound that can only be described as... European.

It is European, in the freewheeling 1960s sort of way, imbibing American pop culture and transforming it. It is also globalism without having to worry about the conservatives erecting their picket fences.

Taking off from the krautrock template of their 2013 debut album, Psycho Tropical Berlin, their follow-up, Mystere, is, as its title suggests, a thing of endless wonders, moving from continent to continent with god- given hauteur.



    La Femme

    Disque Pointu

    4/5 stars

La Femme switch gear as easily as auteur Francois Truffaut jump-cuts and fools around with time.

They sound utterly modern, and retro, or should I say, retro-future.

A song such as S.S.D sounds au courant, a club banger recounting a night of debauchery in Strasbourg - Saint-Denis, hanging out with a prostitute, peeing in a lift and some aimless ambling around at 3am. The reality would have been (or at least smelled) dreary, but who cares, if the song sounds tres chic?

They may flit from generation to generation, but one thing is constant - they take inspiration from youth and youthful restlessness.

One moment, they channel the 1970s-styled proto-punk scuzziness of New York band Suicide in Tatiana, all propulsive riffs with energy coiled up in less than three minutes. The next, they would dive into retro surf-pop with Ou Va La Monde, a tune so effortlessly cool, you half-suspect film-maker Quentin Tarantino would crib it for his next soundtrack.

Truth is, I have no idea what the pairing of male and female vocalists are really singing about most of the time, but it does not matter when the music itself invokes pure cinema.

The opener Sphynx is supreme Giorgio Moroder disco, but spiked with a Middle Eastern allure. It is followed by a classic chanson-styled ditty Le Vide Est Ton Nouveau Prenom, with an intricate braiding of finger-picking acoustica and eerily glacial synths.

They are topped by the 13-minute Vagues, a dreamy piece of nocturne with sci-fi drone and babyish purr, only for it to be hijacked by oceanic crashes over the synthesizer.

You imagine a hologrammatic carousel of, say, chanteuses from actress Brigitte Bardot to singer Francoise Hardy to the more contemporaneous actress Charlotte Gainsbourg looking coolly imperturbable as the music gradually turns darker, a tsunami of gnarled riffs arriving to wash all sentimentality away.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 07, 2016, with the headline 'Endless wonders'. Print Edition | Subscribe