Prior to French Touch, France’s most popular-selling artist was new-age bore Jean-Michel Jarre. But a revolution was afoot. The country’s musical reputation was flipped on its head from the mid-to-late 1990s when a tight-knit scene of young punks began experimenting with their own brand of house music.
With a love of everything disco, booty-shaking basslines, filtered-beyond-recognition samples and over-compressed 909 beats, French Touch came infectiously grooving its way into the world.
Artists like Daft Punk, Cassius and Motorbass released some of the genre’s pioneering work in ‘Homework’, ‘1999’ and ‘Pansoul’. Less than two years later and Stardust’s mega-hit ‘Music Sounds Better With You’ was ruling the charts with its minimalistic approach to a Chaka Khan sample and super sexy vocal.
It wasn’t just a core of French artists getting in on the action either. With so much owing to the early house scenes of Chicago and New York, producers such as Paul Johnson took to the genre with aplomb on tracks like ‘Hit It Up’ for French label Riviera.
But French Touch couldn’t sustain its sharp increase in popularity. Having played such an integral part in its foundation, Daft Punk’s ‘Discovery’ arguably helped bring the genre to an end (but not without giving us some absolute classics in the process) via the proliferation of soulless filter house.
As Phillipe Zdar of Cassius noted in an interview with Red Bull: “I remember going to a record store, listening to 200 records, and all of them were shit. French Touch became a recipe, and it got too easy - just like punk.”
Thankfully a second wave of artists and labels including Justice, SebastiAn and Ed Banger Records took the seeds of French touch, growing them into a harder-edged version of the genre. But that playlist is for another time.
Listen to 30 French touch essentials below.