France’s Transmusicales festival is a thing of pure beauty. Situated in Rennes, the notorious new music behemoth returned for its 33rd year last month. The gist of it? Well, things don’t really kick off until about 3am, and most of the gigs take place in aircraft hangers like this:
It’s generally known as the place where little know 90s bands like Nirvana and The La’s made something of a name for themselves on the European circuit back in the day. From house wunderkind Madeon, to Doldrums, to Melody’s Echo Chamber, this year’s line-up was certainly as eclectic as ever.
Here are our picks of the good – and the bad – of the really new stuff.
French duo O Safari peddle a kind of 80s-indebted synth pop that seems to have been based entirely on Golden Silvers’ track, ‘Arrows of Eros’ (remember them?). Think Hurts, but re-imagined by the Human League. Or the opening bars of ‘Photoshop Handsome’, but with ten times more party. Most of the lyrics are sung in French, but there’s so many catchy dance-a-longs that you don’t even really notice that you have no idea what they’re saying. Case in point – a track called ‘Radio City Music Hall’ (it’s not online sadly), which is basically a super disco version of ‘Daft Punk Is Playing At My House’. Tres bon.
Hailing from good ol’ Blighty, Thumpers are two thirds of Pull Tiger Tail plus three people who weren’t in Pull Tiger Tail. Debut single ‘Sound of Screams’ is a bit like an electro pop Los Campesinos!, whereas live they’re a little more atmospherically synth-heavy. There’s definitely an element of late 2000s throwback involved (unsurprising given the line-up), but there’s something pleasingly uncomplicated about this lot. If Black Kids had grown up in smoggy, dreary London instead of happy clappy Florida then they might have wound up somewhere in this area.
Anyone that has the audacity to cover not one, but two Nirvana songs IN A ROW (‘Breed’ and ‘Territorial Pissings’ in case you were wondering) and pull it off has got to be doing something good. Hot Panda, despite playing at about 3am on the last day, did exactly this. The Canadian quartet have been going for years now, but never really made much of a mark over here. Channelling scrappy, indie-punk sensibilities a la a less annoying Johnny Foreigner, but headed up by Chris Connelly’s androgynously nasal, innately tongue-in-cheek vocal, this is something that deserves to be remedied.
Reasonably-hyped Americans Ms Mr are still a little short of completely finding the comfortable middle ground between their big pop sheen and darker, gothier underbelly, but there’s definitely enough there to keep an eye on. Their blue-haired singer (the band’s names are still being shrouded in Wu Lyf-esque mystery) is a kind of sassy, New York grit take on Katy Perry whilst, for pure stage presence and self-confidence alone, this lot seem one of the most likely of the bill to move into big time territory.
Everything about The Octopus should be wrong. They seemingly haven’t listened to a record made after 1998. They sound terrifyingly reminiscent of Kula Shaker or Cast on far too many occasions. They’re called The Octopus for god’s sake. And yet, somehow, it’s kind of… fun?
Sign up for the newsletter
First Lady REALLY like The Black Keys. Like, A LOT. So much so that, despite being distinctly French, they decided to sing in broken English (sample line: something about finding treasure “even if he faints/ even if he dies”. Presumably the treasure is hidden in a carbon monoxide chamber) and base each track very, very blatantly on a BK track. Subtle.
Rachid Taha Zoom Project
May or may not (there were so many people gathered, we couldn’t even see the stage properly) have done a duet of ‘It’s Now or Never’ (aka the song from the Cornetto advert) with Eric Cantona. Help.