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15 photos tracing the history of electronic music in France

Featuring Laurent Garnier, Daft Punk and Jean-Michel Jarre

  • Words: Bill Brewster | Photos: Oliver Degorce, Edouard Hartigan, Charles Crié, courtesy Bernard Fevre
  • 20 February 2017

Voyage Dans Le Paysage Électronique Français is a touring exhibition curated by Ben Osborne and Red Gallery that traces the history of electronic music in France from the early experimenters up to the present day.

Ahead of it opening on March 17, we've got 15 photos from the show, featuring the trousers of Daft Punk, Jean-Michel Jarre, Cassius, Laurent Garnier and other artists integral to the development of electronic music in France.

See the descriptions for each photo (left to right) below.

1. In 1913, Italian-born Parisian Luigi Russolo wrote the ‘Manifesto for An Art Of Noises’. This pamphlet said that the music of the past reflected agricultural society and sounded like pastoral symphonies. Modern music, he wrote, would sound like the machines of the industrial age. Over 70 years later, Juan Atkins would say he was “more interested in Ford’s robots than traditional Motown music”, while inventing techno.

2. Electro pioneer DJ Sextoy (right) in 1992. Her death in 2002 at the age of 33 was a huge shock to the Paris scene.

3. The always enigmatic Daft Punk’s Guy (left) and Thomas shot at Ku Club Ibiza in 1997, soon after the release of their first album ‘Homework’.

4. Jean Jacque Birge, pictured here in concert in 1975, started making electronic music in 1965 when he was 13 years old. On the avant-garde experimental wing of electronic music, his music deconstructs jazz, rock, classical and many other genres.

5. A party at the Gif-sur-Yvette commune in the Paris suburbs in 1992.

6. Bernard Fevre, aka Black Devil Disco Club (top right), created much of his music for library catalogues, but he was also inspired by Paris’s club scene, and in 1978 released his now classic EP of disco-inspired electronica.

7. Jack de Marseilles pioneered house and techno in the south of France. “Nineteen eighty-six, eighty-seven, it was only on the radio, in UK magazines and on the gay scene. I went to Paris and started to play on Radio FG in Paris and then started on a radio station in Marseilles. I organised the first rave for a techno and mixed crowd and a guy from La Luna club heard me and hired me. That became the first techno club in Marseille. It was something special; people were discovering a new music, a new way to dance. It was, in a way, like Woodstock.”

8. Police interrupt a party at L’Hôpital St Louis, Paris, in 1992.

9. Any history of French electronic music must include the chart-topping prog-influenced electronic rock of Jean-Michel Jarre.

10. A rave in the basement of Jaurés Metro station, 1991.

11. Bernard Szajner started out as a light artist, but by the early 70s had begun experimenting with electronic music. In an era where synthesisers were somewhat limited, with monophonic keyboards and no programming, memory functions or sequencers, Szajner used Schaeffer’s tape music techniques to splice together recordings of his synthesiser sequences. He also started inventing his own instruments, including the light harp, which his friend Jean-Michel Jarre went on to make famous.

12. Cassius (Hubert Blanc-Francard, aka Boom Bass, left, and Philippe Cerboneschi, aka Zdar), were key players in the French Touch era of electronic music and have since produced huge hits both for themselves and other acts in France and internationally. Pictured here in 2016.

13. Despite his flourishing career in the UK, Laurent Garnier returned to France to build the scene in his home country. His contribution to French music over the last 30 years was recognised in 2017 when he was awarded the Légion d’Honneur, France’s highest award for civil merits.

14. MC Solaar (pictured here in 1998) became the first French hip hop act to have a global impact.

15. Voyage Dans Le Paysage Électronique Français is at Red Gallery/Kamio Bar, London EC2A 3DT from March 16 to April 9. The exhibition visits Jack In A Box festival (July) and Château Perché festival (August 4 to 6) before Paris and elsewhere later this year, and then the US in 2018.