Long scorned and ridiculed, French pop has progressed in leaps and bounds over the last half-decade.
It’s mainly due to the liberating possibilities of the sampler that an idea once seen to be an oxymoron – to be French and populist in a global sense – has become a reality. Michel Amato knows just how much a sampler can suggest an alternative reality, a level playing field, and allow him to compete with any other electronic technician. As The Hacker, he has made a significant dent in the electro field especially on the critically lauded Miss Kittin and The Hacker album. This mix CD attests to how far he, his peers, and various clones have come.
In times when Madonna and Kylie Minogue scavenge the electroclash scene – essentially electro with added fakery and campness – for new sounds, ‘The Next Step Of New Wave’ suggests an even more decadent alternative. Preview Oxia’s intriguing ‘Story’ and enter a world where musical coldness is celebrated; this is Hashim’s ’80s NYC electro classic ‘Al-Naafiysh (The Soul)’ bled red-raw, and shorn of warmth and spirituality. Similarly, Plasma Co’s ‘Modern Romantics’ dares to conjure up the spirit of old clothes-horses from the same era, like Visage, except with the temperature again well below zero.
The diversity here becomes apparent as ‘Scientist’, the slight, silly and robotic opener by Dopplereffekt, slowly evolves over time into Random Factor’s elegaic closer, ‘Broken Mirror’. The Hacker goes beyond the regular mix DJ tactic of relying on the beats for continuous segues, and instead uses chunks of sound, keyboard sequences, and extraneous noise to link tracks. His own featured contributions, the straight-up electro ‘Nebel’, and the more maximalist ‘Fadin Away’, go with the general flow, but carry a nastier edge.
Of course, one can question the very idea of reviving a sound that was already mutating before techno came revving out of Detroit, and, in more contemplative moments, wonder if anything has really changed since the original pioneers Kraftwerk, despite all the smoke and mirrors. Yet, this would deny the new generation their fun. And the Hacker’s cold, cold electro world hasn’t hurt anyone. Yet.