Paris Rising: ClekClekBoom

Parisian label ClekClekBoom has been right at the forefront of the recent resurgence in the French club scene, helping to forge a new, more inclusive musical identity for the city. While one may initially associate the nightlife of Paris with the disco-infused house, or the Ed Banger style electro of the past decade, labels such as ClekClekBoom and Sound Pellegrino have incorporated the more international sounds of today found in London Grime and “Bass”, New York Ballroom, Berlin Techno and Chicago Ghettotech to create an organic Parisian sound transmitted directly from the streets. This variety of influences found its expression on last year’s excellent label compilation Paris Club Music Volume 1, and they’ve followed it up almost immediately with another double-disc offering. The first CD is an assembly of eight tracks created exclusively for the compilation, while the second half archives some of the label’s strongest releases from the past year. To find out more about the ideas behind the release and where the label is at in 2014, we sat down with co-head French Fries and labelmate Bambounou for a chat.

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It’s been a busy year for the pair, with a slew of releases from names both old and new culminating in the release of their first full-length album, French Fries’ ‘Kepler’, released earlier in the year to much acclaim. These developments have run parallel to a wider proliferation in the acknowledgement of this new music emerging from the city of light, perhaps most emblematically in the inauguration of Rinse France, created in collaboration with the London station and signifying the real traction this new sound has. “For me, Rinse is where everything began”, says French Fries, “I wanted a Rinse show so bad that we actually did our own podcast called the Boomcast”. It’s this same DIY spirit that fuelled the rise of the London station in its pirate days in the 90s and ClekClek’s contribution has been recognised as they now feature heavily on the schedule – the label holding a weekly show with Bambounou and Manare helming their own shows too. Bambounou speaks of the plans already in work to set up the station on FM frequency and any talk of traditional radio being defunct seem ridiculous when you see the amount of presence and exposure these new artists and DJs have acquired from it. The Rinse France studios are in the same building as the video-sharing website Dailymotion and the two have worked in close collaboration to broadcast live sets, with Sound Pellegrino head Teki Latex going one step further and creating his own take on Boiler Room online streaming with the show Overdrive Infinity – an audio/visual collaboration featuring both French DJs and guests from abroad. French Fries and Bambounou are yet to appear on the show but tight-knit nature of the new wave of dance producers in Paris means that an appearance is almost definitely on the cards sooner rather than later.

It is in this exciting context that Paris Club Music Volume 2 sees its release and it immediately becomes apparent why a second retrospective was needed when hearing the striking progression that has occurred in just one year. The sound has become more pared down, subtle and minimal, now taking more cues from the drum machine led jams of Chicago and Detroit, as well as the bare-boned percussive intensity of Night Slug’s Club Constructions series. The trailer for the compilation shows projections of geometric shapes on a variety of Parisian locales, and this modular, functional approach guides the construction of the music too. A number of the tracks on the first disc congregate around similar ideas – flanged percussion with minimal and bright synth melodies creating a sense of space and movement, working in conjunction with the pounding and sometimes frenetic rhythms. The influence of the ‘Kepler’ LP can be heard even a few months after its release: digitised grooves and science-fiction evocations of that project are neatly summed up in the three words that the pair came up with to describe the direction of the first CD – “sex, cyborg and Chicago”.

Perhaps to signal this change in direction, it is appropriate that new signees NS-DOS kick off the first CD with ‘Stand Alone Sunset’, a track, like most of their others, constructed around a layer of a hardware-based drum track, with bright tropical sounding synth stabs punctuating the groove. It’s an interesting choice to helm the compilation and displays the label’s dedication and adherence to this new sound. “We actually found them in an art gallery, in a really tiny room. We saw these two guys in the middle of the room and there were a lot of really strange machines like video game controllers and weird synthesisers and we were just like yo, what the fuck is this?! They were doing like slow Grime with a Techno vibe. I was just filming on my Iphone like a groupie.” When French Fries eventually got them into the studio, he discovered that they had never actually recorded any of their music before and that they improvised with hardware live at every show. Not wanting to alter their methodology, he recorded the jams and pressed it, resulting in the Lazer Connect EP released at the end of the last year. “They say they don’t do techno, they do free jazz”. Both French Fries and Bambounou cite the influence of these malleable ‘free-jazz’ newcomers as the one of the key steering forces at the helm of ClekClek’s new and refined conglomerate. “They definitely changed the sound of everybody… for me, it was really a revelation; they were like the biggest band of the year! They’ve really changed my way of thinking musically,” says French Fries, adding,  “it’s real raw music!”.

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This marrying of an experimental spirit with an album’s coherence informs the sequencing of the first CD. “I wanted people to believe that it was produced by one guy. That was why we talked a lot and had a directive. For the EPs it’s different, I want the producers to go wherever they want, and try new stuff.” A number of the tracks also challenge assumptions of what composes club music – the intensity and percussive force of tunes such as Aleqs Notal’s ‘Near Mint’ (a build and release number, all rolling toms and flanged hi- hats), Jean Nipon’s ‘Untitled Girl’ (his signature Ghetto House stylings, digitised mutterings and vocoded samples buried within the mix) and Bambounou’s ‘Idem’ (a manic workout of undulating percussion and seductive female whispers) are offset with other, more atmospheric offerings. The eerie tension and control panel glitches of track like Manare’s ‘Automat’, the lush, evocative melodies and weighty drums of French Fries’ ‘Got It’, and the early hours moods of Coni’s ‘Basic Circle’, the mystical build and release of the twinkling synths reminiscent of some of the more famous Frankie Knuckles productions, show the range of interpretations this Paris club music possesses.

Coni has been an important component of the label’s output, coming from a different musical background to the rest of the crew. “We were listening to a lot of Grime and Ghetto stuff from the US and he was really into Berlin – Deep House and Techno. We’ve now mixed our stuff with his, he brings the Techno and we give him tips on the Grime”. ‘Aethority’, a recent collaboration between label co-founder Ministre X and Parisian pianist Mattias Mimoun encapsulate this spirit of inter-label collaboration on the final track of the first CD, offering up a sublime Jazz-inflected groove on what is one of the highlights of the whole compilation.

The second CD highlights the pivotal releases on the label over the past year, as well as the tunes you will most likely hear in a current ClekClek DJ set and here the tracks are primed more explicity for the dancefloor. The robotic funk of French Fries’ ‘Everything’ is what we have come to expect from the 22-year-old producer – high intensity synths, and syncopated Hip-Hop infused rhythms. We also get two samples from his album ‘Kepler’, the highlight being ‘Bug Noticed’, a tune that gives a new meaning to DJ functionality. Based wholly on a vogue inflected handclap riff reminiscent of his massive 12” ‘What to Do’, the song mutates as it goes on, the same dizzying and disorientating rhythm hurled into glitched-out delirium as the sample is distorted out of all recognition. The song has featured as a dancefloor weapon in a wide array of DJs sets – from the Night Slugs crew, to Sound Pellegrino and 50 Weapons emissaries, exemplifying its versatility. Other highlights include Aleqs Notal’s ‘Ancient Theory’, another slice of machine funk, its hypnotising arpeggioed riff transforming into a warm pad breakdown, with ClekClek’s signature hard-hitting drums cutting through the mix. The tight bounce of NSDOS’, ‘Meridien S-Dos’ is similarly entrancing, the synth stabs intertwined in rhythmic tension with the Techno backdrop. Coni’s ‘The Opposite’ again displays how he is one the more intriguing artists on the label, his bright and glittering synths supplementing the rolling tom rhythm, creating another understated groove.

While their sound certainly stands alone within the capital, does labelling the collection “Paris Club Music” mean that this is a statement – a definitive document of where the Parisian scene is at in 2014? “People in Europe only talk about London or Berlin, you know? We’ve got to start changing that. It’s not necessarily about the genre because we know it’s a mix of a lot of different styles, from the US and Europe. We don’t want to say ‘this is the Paris sound’ but rather it comes from Paris,” says French Fries. “It’s not as pretentious as that,” Bambounou adds. Indeed ClekClek is not alone in this international, cosmopolitan approach to dance music and it can be said that this approach places the label at the zeitgeist of the modern scene, which, in the Soundcloud age, has taken on even more hybridity as it continues to evolve. Even so, with Paris Club Music Volume 2 it is clear that French Fries helms a label focused on fostering a sound of their own, instead of concerning themselves with the Parisian club scene as a whole. Bambounou cites a more mature palette being available to the ClekClek family as they’ve grown up and it’s clear their own sound has matured with them, from the playful dirtiness of tracks like ‘Hugz’ and ‘Yo Vogue’ to their current output. “When people hear a track in the club or when something’s unreleased and we’re playing on Rinse, people are tweeting like ‘oh new ClekClek material’ so I think we’re heading in the right direction.”

Next on the horizon for the label is a new EP for Jean Nipon, as well as a white label release from Chaos in the CBD (interestingly the sole non-Parisian artists on the label, currently based in Peckham). After that, French Fries outlines his wish to do some more remix and compilation work outside of the label, as well as releasing a remix album of Kepler, featuring other artists. If there will be another album length project from any of the camp it will be from NSDOS, who is, as French Fries says – a highly exciting prospect. Nevertheless, right now, the compilation is an essential document of where these innovators are taking the Parisian dance scene and gives a real sense of what you can expect if you venture to one of ClekClekBoom’s residencies at La Machine du Moulin Rouge. Paris Club Music Volume 2 is a formidable showcase of some of the brightest young talents from both Paris and worldwide electronic music.

‘Paris Club Music Vol.2’ is out next Monday 7th July on ClekClekBoom. Pre-order your copy here

Words: Ollie Guthrie & Olly Newman

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