“BIPPP: French Synth-Wave 1979/85” Compilation

This was a (very) random purchase from Red Cat Records on our visit to Vancouver BC a few weeks back.  It looked like it could be either bizarrely cool or a steaming pile of electronic failure, but I was buying some other stuff anyway and felt like taking a gamble, so I picked it up.  I had not heard of any of the bands included, nor had I ever considered “French synth-wave” might be an actual genre, though at this point in my musical re-awakening I’m pretty convinced you can put any three or four words together and make up a genre, especially if you use at least one sort of musical term.  Basque speed country?  Sure.  Underground death pop?  Why not.  Alt-garage-wave?  I’ll take two, please.  As for the stuff on BIPPP, I’d call it “post post-punk new wave.”  But, you know, from France.

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Right from the opening low-tech keyboard intro to “Contagion” by A Trois Dans Les WC (which my four years of high school French tell me means something like “Three in the Bathroom”) I’m getting a familiar vibe, hearing little pieces of lots of great bands old and new.  There’s some Devo here, and a little Purrkur Pillnikk in it’s overall weirdness, plus at least a dash of FM Belfast.  The synthy stuff is futuristic in that way that old movies from the 1920s and 30s show what space travel will look like.  It’s stripped down and metallic.  But that’s followed by an upbeat, more clearly new wave “Ping Pong” by Act, and it’s clear that we’re going to be all over the place on this record, with synths as the common element.  Vox Dei’s brief “Terroriste” sounds like Þeyr accompanied by a Casio keyboard and sung in French.  In other words, it’s cool as hell.

Side B features my favorite song, Marie Möör’s half French/half English “Pretty Day,” which opens with a minimalist electronic beat that faked me out as I was sure it was the opening to Trio’s “Da Da Da.”  I’m a sucker for female singers on new wave sounding tracks, so this one had me hooked all the way around with it’s darker sound and lyrics (some of which I could understand!).  That’s followed by Deux’s “Game And Performance,” a duet featuring both male and female vocals, with the male sort of stilted while the woman is slightly modulated, both of them with pronounced cadences that provide further structure for the song.

The vinyl version and original French CD from 2006 contain 13 tracks, so there’s lots of great stuff here.  It looks like the American release from 2008 adds a 14th song, “Rainbow Man” by Busy P, as does the version available for sale on iTunes.  While I will always recommend that you buy the vinyl, you can’t go wrong with the digital download of this for $9.99.  If you like new wave and synths, BIPPP:  French Synth-Wave 1979/85 is right in your wheelhouse.

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