Paris is a capital city frequently defined by its romantic imagery. This makes the visual assault of neon signs reading "Pussies" and "Sex Shows" in Pigalle, the red light district, feel a little incongruous. Pigalle sits at the foot of the beautiful, glowing white Sacré-Cœur church, more akin to the iconic imagery so strongly associated with the city of love. Where the two disparate sides of Paris collide, La Machine du Moulin Rouge, a venue that is as much a concert hall as a nightclub, sits adjacent to the world famous Moulin Rouge cabaret. It is a far cry from the VIP orientated clubs of the upmarket arrondissements, some of which play host to strong underground lineups but attract disappointingly image conscious crowds.
Coffee and Marmelade is a brand new residency at La Machine with music programming by forward-thinking French organisation Sonotown. Set up in 2008 with the aim of promoting culture, Sonotown is dedicated to "cutting edge electronic music" and appears to shake off any snobby restrictiveness to a particular genre.
DJs are elevated in front of the crowd on La Machine's main room's concert hall stage, making the venue particularly suitable for the night's string of live performances. Swedish techno duo Skudge took to the stage with an impressive hardware setup centered on their beloved 909 and acid party starter the x0xb0x. The pair has an impressive ability to keep things raw and crisp while simultaneously bringing a dance-inducing grooviness that's not characteristic to all techno. They achieved both tough relentlessness and subtle ambient build-ups, a duality that made Skudge a standout act. It was refreshing to see a crowd as enthralled by their sophisticated creations as by the predictable drops and cheesy vocals that have dominated parts of the electronic music scene recently.
Downstairs, the second smaller room was encircled by a walkway floating over a ground level decked out in trippy Alice in Wonderland-style decor. Against the exposed pipes of what used to be the Moulin Rouge's boiler room, the dimmed red lights further enhanced the intimate atmosphere. Parisian duo Society of Silence rocked the room with another impressive live set. They drew a smaller but committed crowd who appeared to truly lose themselves to a highly energised set of hard, dark, driving techno.
Delta Funktionen, who gained critical acclaim warming up for Jeff Mills in 2010, closed the main room with dance floor techno. He delved into the realms of house too but opted to play a little harder than some of the other acts. The dance floor did empty towards the end of his set, but it was evidently no reflection on attendee's aural satisfaction. Hessle Audio co-founder Pangaea closed the smaller downstairs room. He kept the devoted crowd stomping through a diverse set, his dub influenced techno ensuring those who remained stayed until well beyond lights up.
Sonotown's commitment to high quality music was evident throughout the night, embracing a diverse lineup and successfully rising to the challenge of showcasing live talent alongside DJ sets. Also particularly worthy of note was the friendly crowd's genuine musical appreciation, complemented by a tangible air of hedonism—the balance of the two was just right.