Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir?
Okay, so that infamous "Lady Marmelade" query has
absolutely nothing to do with this article, but its
the only French I know and I thought it would be appropriate
to lead off with a fancy quote. After all, we are in the midst
of another French Revolution, only this one takes place on
the dance floor instead of the battlefield.
With the runaway success of records like Daft Punks
"One More Time" and Madonnas highly publicized
collaboration with Mirwais Ahmadzaï, the French electronica
movement has effectively infiltrated the mainstream collective
and catapulted a handful of once-obscure musicians to the
forefront of the international music scene. Among this elite
group is the powerhouse production team of Hubert "BoomBass"
Blanc-Francard and Philippe Zdar. Better known as Cassius,
their long-awaited sophomore album, Au Rêve (Astralwerks),
offers a fascinating exploration of electronic soul music.
The two Parisians first met in 1988 while working at Huberts
fathers recording studio. Philippe was studying to become
a studio engineer while Hubert was learning the ropes as a
studio teaboy. Initially enthralled by the hip-hop music scene,
they teamed up in the early 90s to produce three albums for
French rapper MC Solaar, and later released their own productions
under the moniker La Funk Mob. Then in 1992, Philippe had
an epiphany at a rave party that turned his taste towards
techno and house music. Philippe first quenched his new thirst
by collaborating with DJ Etienne de Crécy on several
projects under the pseudonym Motorbass. He later convinced
Hubert to produce a house track with him under the guise of
LHomme Qui Valait Trois Millards (The Six Million Dollar
Man). "Foxxy Lady" was the result, and this surprise
hit solidified their presence as emerging electronic artists.
Remix projects for Neneh Cherry ("Woman"), Bjork
("Isobel"), Depeche Mode ("Its No Good"),
Daft Punk ("Around The World") and Air ("Sexy
Boy") followed. Primed for maximum international exposure,
Philippe and Hubert formed Cassius (in reverence to Mohammed
Ali), and in 1998 unleashed the British Top 20 club anthem,
"Cassius 1999." The following year saw the release
of their appropriately titled breakthrough album, 1999.
While 1999 was recorded in just three weeks, their second
album took more than two years to complete. "We [hadnt]
finished the promo of the last album and we were already started
[on the next one]," says Philippe with a laugh. The result
is a clever intermingling of disparate musical styles that
deftly employs the requisite electronic machinations along
with a more sophisticated instrumentation that propels listeners
along a whimsical if not unconventional journey. While erratic
at times, the fractured beats and inspired vocal elements
lend themselves well to creating a sexy lounge vibe that is
curiously both ambient and frenetic.
Released in July, the lead single, "I Am Woman,"
has been burning up dance floors all summer thanks to the
inimitable vocals of Miss Jocelyn Brown. Hubert and Philippe
were honored to work with the legendary songstress. "Shes
a great love of our life," enthuses Philippe, "We
saw her sing in Miami two years ago and we did whatever we
could to meet her and do a track with her." Their diligence
paid off with this powerful introduction to their latest opus.
Joining Brown as guest vocalists on Au Rêve (The Dream
in English) are other old-school artists Leroy Burgess, Wu-Tang
Clan rapper Ghostface Killah and Steve Edwards. Although a
few filler tracks sound more annoying than entertaining at
times, most of the 13 songs deserve close attention, particularly
"Hi Water," "The Sound of Violence," "Under
The Influence" and the albums title track.
Despite the inevitable comparisons to fellow countrymen Air,
Daft Punk and Dimitri, Cassius hold their own as innovators
and purveyors of the increasingly popular French electronic
milieu. Hubert and Philippe are not sure what the future will
bring, but thats okay because they prefer to live in
the moment anyway. And considering how well everything is
going right now, who can blame them?