Valentino Cazani aka French Fries is the 22 year old producer / DJ at the helm of Parisian electronic music label ClekClekBoom. A label that, in three short years, has carved its own unique aesthetic identity within the international club underground, firmly situating Paris on the global cosmopolitan map of underground electronic music scenes drawn together by a shared approach to working with several club genre styles to create something fresh, experimental and rewarding.
French Fries has taken this ethos of experimentation and run with it. His output has been increasingly progressive since his breakout 2010 single ‘Yo Vogue’, which is a playfully bouncy homage to New York Ballroom culture and the re-emergence of a distinct Trap / Hyphy sound. His debut LP, ‘Kepler’ is conceptual, meditative and wildly adventurous. The album artwork and track titles communicate themes found in this sonically rich project; the freedom and limitations that come with knowledge, experience and adventure as well as an overarching musical statement on the relationship between humanity and technology.
The brilliantly theatrical opening track ‘Program’ greets us with washes of ambient noise, chock full of glowing synths and wave effects. By the end of the barely two minute introduction, we are immersed in French Fries’ gorgeous appropriation of science fiction fantasy.
Next comes the excellent ‘UM-AN’ which in parts is more reminiscent of French Fries’ now signature sound. The ballroom vocal sample “work” chopped and scattered across the young producer’s already impressive body of work launches us into this new direction he has taken into the depths of outer space. He achieves this by creating (three guesses) frequent moments of what sound and feel like empty space. The layered percussion here is both delicate and grounding, a contrast to the musical ‘strobe’ effect of the synths throughout. This tension between several ideas and elements is the heart of ‘Kepler’s concept. Subtle momentum and urgency found here is transformed into the assault that is ‘Machine’ which draws from the immediate minimalism of Techno and adds brutal handclaps, 808 cowbells, a growling bassline and echoing alarm sounds which separate this club monster into foreground and background effects, giving even the most basic instinct to fight, dance (or both) depth.
‘Forward Action’, like its title, thrives on the momentum of the last two tracks and with looped computerized vocals at the centre; there are layers of sound that once again play off the other. What sounds like a mobilized machine army is juxtaposed with muffled casual human conversation over a throbbing bass drum to create some of his most arrestingly unique work to date.
‘Organic Recreation’, the first (noticeably weightless) intermission, introduces lilting electronic strings looped, reminiscent of another recent release from prominent experimental electronic musician, Actress’ ‘Ghettoville’. French Fries is clearly interested in creating a rich conceptual soundscape for his many ideas to flourish as well as a lush backdrop for the second half of the LP.
‘Bug Noticed’ and ‘This Kind of Setup’ marks the first significant tonal shift with the introduction of a pulsating drum patterns with skittering electronics dancing across headphones. The tempo is now paranoid and schizophrenic and like ‘Machine’, violence between the organic and the artificial, fear and hysteria are at the forefront of the album’s sonic palette. Synths become sirens and a previous sense of urgency is now danger.
‘Trying to Understand Curiosity’ emerges from the warzone and picks up the ambient meditation experienced on ‘Organic Recreation’. The journey and a real sense of discovery and growth are enforced here as the second half of the album is a steady development of the ideas and concepts found in the first half. ‘Change the Past’, is a futurist exploration of what came before in an energetic nod to the explosive House movements of the 80s and 90s in Detroit, Chicago and New York.
Enter Clekclekboom co-founder, Bambounou, on the track ‘K62’; a relentlessly minimal, darkly twinkling shuffle. Typically oozing with Parisian cool and style, the duo head into a looped digital hysteria that leaves so much space to breathe it becomes a real test of nerves as the breaks seem to last forever, only to smoothly transition into a subtle, tightly restrained dance track. It is as mysterious as it is immersive.
This extra-terrestrial journey’s denouement begins with ‘Journey to Kepler’, a dramatic contrast to the enigma of ‘K62’, light and agile keys, building in intensity, propel the song towards the stunning climax of ‘Kepler’. ‘Reality System’ revisits the lush, cyber rainforest aesthetic previously experienced in ‘Organic Recreation’. This is what the iconic rave sequence in The Matrix: Reloaded sounds like. The track is an oasis in an LP characterized by the inevitable obstacles and conflicts faced on every important journey. The previously conflicting elements of spirituality vs technology complement each other here in this tropical, polyrhythmic shuffle. The melody is simple and consistent throughout and it is the calmness evoked by warped and updated steel pan sounds that give ‘Keplar’ its depth, texture and soul.
Final track ‘Explore’ sounds like the beginning of another 14-track outer-space adventure, leaving us with warm, glowing synths looped to infinity and beyond…
‘Kepler’ is out now on Clekclekboom. Buy it here.