My review of the compilation Bippp: French Synth-Wave 1978/85 is in the current issue of Time Out New York. Let's use this opportunity to pay tribute to the cold wave that did not sweep a nation back in the late ’70s and early ’80s with songs from Bippp and Transmission, a comp covering the 1980s French dark wave.
Quite a few French alt-bands discovered synthesizers and punk at about the same time, as the Métal Urbain reissues from a few years ago showed. Add to that a predetermination to embrace doomed romanticism—France loves a perdant magnifique, or beautiful loser—and you have all the ingredients for a particularly thriving "back to black" musical movement. Do visit the amazing French New Wave site, which is to its topic what BNR is to metal.
MP3 A trois dans les WC "Contagion" From Bippp: French Synth-Wave 1978/85 (2006)
I only knew of that band, which hailed from the northern town of Saint-Quentin, under the name WC3—which it adopted after signing to CBS. Its first single, "Contagion," was independently released under the group's original moniker. Seventeen, the label responsible for the Métal Urbain CDs, recently reissued A trois dans les WC's early material.
MP3 Visible "Le jour se lève" from Bippp: French Synth-Wave 1978/85 (2006)
Hailing from Troyes, Visible was completely unknown to me until now. Love the elastic beat on "Le jour se lève."
Released a couple of years ago by the excellent label Infrastition, Transmission covers the years 1981–89, focusing on the French equivalents of Joy Division and the Cure. It's an indispensable purchase if you want to discover Gallic goth. That scene pretty much passed me by at the time, but I'm now diving into it with great enthusiasm—I even prefer it to the British strain I liked so much 20 years ago.
MP3 Clair Obscur "The Pilgrim's Progress" from Transmission (2005)
Founded in Creil in 1981 (this track is from 1983), Clair Obscur was one of the most theatrical and physical acts in the doom ’n’ gloom scene; remarkably, it's still active.
MP3 Opéra de Nuit "Ami-Amant" from Transmission (2005)
Fantastic 1986 track from this super-confidential band from Provence. It's as if the band is catchy despite itself.
17 hours ago