Good luck was bestowed upon the seventh edition of the wide-ranging Parisian festival la Villette Sonique. Spared by rain and any major cancellation, this year was an unanimous success. On the festival's first night, the hip-hop of Shabazz Palaces served as a nice introduction. Punctuated by live percusssion and minimal tongue-in-cheek choregraphies, the American duo somehow looked and sounded like a mixture of a lo-fi Outkast and early Tricky. MF Doom felt more predictable and less inspired in contrast: the masked headliner, basically treated us to a standard hip-hop performance with a prerecorded soundtrack, which nevertheless satisfied his dense fanbase. Californian Warp signee Flying Lotus only spun fun bass and electro records, but things went wrong when he opted for rock-star gimmicks on stage (ordering a whisky bottle on the mic, lighting a cigarette just to pretend to smoke) and an embarrassing selection of pre-baked classics ("Intergalactic," some Jackson Five and no less than three Mr. Oizo tracks).
On Saturday night, most of those who took delight in the greasy slices of (sometimes fun) stone and doom rock by Sleep or Melvins probably didn't attend the club night at the circus-shaped Cabaret Sauvage afterwards. Lined up as a warm-up act, the Krikor and Chloé duet Plein Soleil's set mostly consisted of a neat selection of sexy minimal house and some acid cuts. Pearson Sound provided a fat-free DJ set, blending complex but bouncy electro tracks with old school dance. French-American house pioneer Francois K was up next. Depending on one's level of derision, the first 30 minutes of his set sounded like a succession of embarrassingly cheesy house tunes mixed on a cheap virtual DJ simulator. The man then quickly bounced towards more '90s techno, eventually building a certain dramatic tension that caught the whole dance floor for an hour until he ended on a disco medly—which was probably what the most devoted attendees expected from him.
The best night turned out to be the darkest. Among the gigs from the first part of the night, Soft Moon performed an enjoyable dark-wave electro-rock session even if they didn't manage to recreate the intensity of their records onstage. Serious action took place later at the recently reborn Trabendo with Chris & Cosey's strikingly fresh live set. The cult British synth-wave tandem recycled their most dance-oriented material for a strong but distinguished performance. Some might have regretted that the most mysterious or romantic sides of their repertoire were left aside in favour of more bass-focused aesthetics, but many seemed surprised by the relevance of the legendary couple (in comparison with loads of foul comebacks by '80s artists).
Another outstanding performance was turned in by Ital, who delivered his off-kilter house experiments through a giddy whirl of extreme sounds and beats, all with a rather intense stage persona. John Talabot closed the night with a friendly set mainly composed of current floor-fillers plus some of his own personal favorites. By that time, more striking, though, was the very laidback and open atmosphere that reigned in the club until the doors closed, something odd enough in Paris to be worthy of mention.