VA: B.I.P.P.P.: French Synth Wave 1979-1985

Curious about the precursors of Ladytron and Daft Punk? Wonder no longer. Everloving has exhumed a baker's dozen of “Synth-Wave” songs (originally curated by the Paris-based Born Bad imprint) that emerged during the halcyon post-punk and post-New Wave period in mid-‘70s France. The term “caveat emptor” doesn't apply in this case as B.I.P.P.P makes good on the promise of its French Synth-Wave 1979/85 subtitle. Though there are stylistic contrasts, the material generally hews to a common template: primitive, single-digit synth melodies augmented by punk guitars, robotic bass and drum machine grooves, and overlaid by (mostly) French vocals that are alternately histrionic and, true to android form, monotone.

More No Wave than New Wave, A Trois Dans Les WC's (which dissolved when band member Janine dropped dead on stage during the first show of the group's 1984 tour) “Contagion” pairs a demented spoken-sung growl with primitive synths and simpleton bass and drum parts—not the most promising start, but the song isn't representative of the set's general tone which is closer in spirit to upbeat synth-pop (e.g., Les Visiteurs Du Soir's “Je t'écris d'un pays”) and B-52s-styled New Wave (Act's “Ping Pong). The material sometimes reverberates across the decades in surprising ways (e.g., the female singer's spoken delivery in Deux's “Game and Performance” anticipates Lali Puna) while at other times sounds surprisingly current (TGV's android Devo-meets-Kraftwerk “Partie 1”). You'll probably recognize none of the artists' names (most of the material initially appeared on DIY-produced 7-inch vinyl singles in pressings of 500 to 1000 copies) but that's partially the point: implicit in the collection's release is Everloving's desire to rescue fading names from the dustbin to grant them their place in the convoluted history of late-20th century pop.

April 2008