How French Touch shaped House music forever

Filter sweeps and sample loops and that special something. French Touch made a mark on the global electronic music landscape that still resonates to this day.

How French Touch shaped House music forever

In the wider landscape of electronic music, few movements have been as influential or as distinctive as the French Touch. This genre, which emerged from the heartland of France in the mid-90s, has left a mark on the global music scene. Its unique blend of house, funk, and disco, combined with a distinctly French flair, has influenced countless artists and genres, shaping the course of electronic music for decades.

Origins of the French Touch

The French Touch, or "La French Touch" as it's affectionately known in its native land, is a term that was first coined by British journalist Martin James in a 1996 issue of Mixmag. It was used to describe a burgeoning wave of French artists who were making a name for themselves with their unique take on house music.

The genre is characterized by its heavy use of filters and samples, creating a sound that is both nostalgic and futuristic. This sonic paradox, a fusion of old and new, is as intriguing as it is infectious. The French Touch sound is often marked by a distinctive use of repetitive, looping beats and a heavy reliance on house-styled vocals. The music often incorporates elements of funk, disco, soul, and pop, creating a rich, layered sound that is instantly recognizable.

The French Touch was not just a musical movement; it was also a reaction to the prevailing music trends of the time. In the mid-90s, the music scene was dominated by the raw, aggressive sounds of techno and the emerging genre of Britpop. The French Touch offered a softer, more melodic alternative, with its smooth beats and catchy hooks. It was a sound that was distinctly French, yet universally appealing, and it quickly caught the attention of music lovers around the world.

The Birthplace: Parisian Discotheques

The roots of the French Touch can be traced back to the bustling discotheques of Paris in the early 90s. Here, in the heart of the city of lights, DJs like Laurent Garnier and Dimitri from Paris were spinning a unique mix of house, funk, and disco that stood in stark contrast to the techno-dominated soundscape of the time.

These Parisian discotheques were more than just venues; they were incubators for the French Touch sound. DJs would experiment with different beats and samples, pushing the boundaries of what was possible with electronic music. The result was a fresh, innovative sound that was unlike anything else on the music scene.

This new sound caught the attention of the UK music press, and the term French Touch was born. It was in these vibrant Parisian nightclubs (including some early experimentation in Rex Club that might later sweep the world) that the French Touch found its voice, a voice that would soon resonate across the globe. The discotheques became the epicenter of the French Touch movement, drawing in music lovers with their innovative sound and vibrant atmosphere.

These clubs also played a crucial role in fostering a sense of community among the French Touch artists. DJs and producers would often collaborate, sharing ideas and inspiration. This collaborative spirit was a key factor in the rapid growth and development of the French Touch sound. It was in these clubs that artists like Daft Punk, Cassius, and Etienne de Crécy first made their mark, setting the stage for the global success of the French Touch movement.

The Breakthrough: Daft Punk

The French Touch genre truly came into its own with the release of Daft Punk's seminal album "Homework" in 1997. This album, a masterclass in electronic music production, served as a blueprint for the French Touch sound. Tracks like "Around the World" and "Da Funk" became global hits, introducing the world to the distinctive sound of the French Touch.

Daft Punk, composed of Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo, were pioneers in their innovative use of filters and loops. Their music was characterized by heavy sampling and the use of a vocoder for the robotic vocals that would become a signature of their sound. Their knack for crafting catchy hooks, combined with their innovative production techniques, set the template for the genre.

"Da Funk" with its irresistible bassline and "Around the World" with its hypnotic rhythm, showcased the duo's ability to create tracks that were both complex and accessible. Their music was a bridge between the underground electronic scene and the mainstream pop world, and it was this crossover appeal that helped propel the French Touch movement to global prominence.

Daft Punk's influence extended beyond their music. Their iconic robot personas and their groundbreaking music videos, often directed by acclaimed directors like Michel Gondry and Spike Jonze, added a visual element to their music that was as distinctive and innovative as their sound.

The Golden Age: Late 90s to Early 2000s

Following in Daft Punk's footsteps, a wave of French artists burst onto the scene in the late 90s and early 2000s. This period, often considered the golden age of French Touch, saw the genre reach new heights of popularity and influence.

Acts like Cassius, with their infectious grooves, Stardust, with their disco-infused beats, and Etienne de Crécy, with his experimental approach, took the French Touch sound and ran with it, each adding their own unique spin. Cassius' "1999" became an anthem of the French Touch movement, its funky bassline and catchy vocals capturing the genre's infectious energy. Stardust's "Music Sounds Better With You" was a global hit, its uplifting lyrics and irresistible beat embodying the feel-good spirit of the French Touch.

Meanwhile, Etienne de Crécy's 'Super Discount' albums showcased the genre's more experimental side, with their eclectic mix of house, techno, and downtempo beats. These artists, along with others like Air and Alex Gopher, helped to expand the boundaries of the French Touch sound, pushing it in new and exciting directions.

This period also saw the French Touch movement gain recognition beyond the music world. The stylish, sophisticated image of the French Touch artists, combined with the international success of their music, helped to cement France's reputation as a global trendsetter in fashion, culture, and music.

The Legacy: French Touch in the Modern Era

The influence of the French Touch extends far beyond its heyday in the late 90s and early 2000s. The genre's distinctive sound and innovative approach to electronic music have left a lasting impact on the music scene, influencing a new generation of artists and shaping the course of electronic music in the 21st century.

Artists like Justice, M83, and Phoenix have carried the torch for the genre into the modern era, infusing their music with the distinctive French Touch sound. Justice's gritty, rock-infused electro, exemplified in tracks like "D.A.N.C.E" and "Genesis," pays homage to the French Touch while pushing the genre in new directions. Their music, with its heavy distortion and aggressive beats, represents a darker, edgier side of the French Touch.

M83, on the other hand, incorporates elements of the French Touch into their dreamy, synth-laden soundscapes. Tracks like "Midnight City" and "Wait" showcase the band's ability to fuse electronic and organic elements, creating a sound that is both nostalgic and forward-thinking.

Phoenix, with their blend of indie rock and synth-pop, represent another facet of the French Touch's influence. Their music, characterized by catchy hooks and lush synth arrangements, carries the melodic sensibilities of the French Touch into the realm of indie music.

Even today, the influence of the French Touch can be heard in the works of contemporary artists. Producers like Tchami, with his future house tracks, and Madeon, with his electro-pop anthems, carry the French Touch's innovative spirit into the present day. Their music, while rooted in the sounds of the past, points towards the future of electronic music, a testament to the enduring influence of the French Touch.

The French Touch, it seems, is a genre that continues to evolve and inspire, its unique sound echoing through the annals of electronic music. As we look to the future, it's clear that the French Touch will continue to shape the course of electronic music, its influence felt in the beats of dance floors around the world.

The Cultural Revolution of French Touch

The French Touch movement was more than just a genre; it was a cultural revolution. It put France on the map as a major player in the global electronic music scene and paved the way for future generations of French artists. Its innovative fusion of house, funk, and disco, combined with a distinctly French sensibility, created a sound that was fresh, unique, and unmistakably French. It's a testament to the genre's enduring appeal that, over two decades after it first emerged, the French Touch continues to captivate audiences around the world.

In the words of Daft Punk's Thomas Bangalter, "Music has the key to change the perception of the world." The French Touch, with its unique blend of past and future, has certainly changed ours. It's a genre that invites us to look back even as it propels us forward, a musical journey that, much like the tracks it produces, is always in motion. As we look to the future of electronic music, one thing is clear. That French Touch is a genre that will continue to shape, inspire, and revolutionize the music scene for years to come.