All of those artists are signed to a young label called ClekClekBoom. Last year it released the Paris Club Music Vol. 1 compilation, a defining moment for the burgeoning scene. The early singles it collected, plus a handful of new tracks, weave together Chicago house influences, techno's tautness, the swing of dubstep and UK funky, and plenty of other threads into unclassifiable bass music that could be dynamite in the hands of the right DJ.
Alongside other labels like Sound Pellegrino and Bromance, ClekClekBoom are among the most visible of this new wave of French artists. They've chosen to stick to that evocative and open-ended term—Paris club music—to describe their output. Instead of kowtowing to London trends, the label, originally started by French veterans Ministre X and Boo late last decade, has eked out a powerful niche in both Parisian and global bass music.
When I called up the ClekClekBoom HQ for a video chat, I was greeted by the label's three main men sat in front of a mighty collection of records. They work in a compound of sorts, their cluttered desks just across from those of the My Love Is Underground label and two of Paris's most important promoters, Sonotown and La Machine Du Moulin Rouge.
Jonathan Chaoul, AKA Ministre X, looks like a grown-up hip-hop kid—thick frames, a tousled button-up and a snapback. His partner in crime, Adrien "Boo" Creuse, wears a simple black jumper. They're joined by Valentino Mora, AKA French Fries, who appears to be about 15 years their junior. You wouldn't think these guys would hang out, never mind run a label together. But this motley trio are behind some of the most exciting music to bubble up from the Parisian underground in the past five years.
Mora is a recent addition to ClekClekBoom, but he was the ignition key that Chaoul and Creuse needed to finally get things going. CCB, named after the chorus of an old Brazilian hip-hop track Chaoul produced, was founded in 2007 as an online platform to spread the music of Parisian baile funk DJ Sandrinho. Chaoul, who was managing him, couldn't find labels to release his records, so he teamed up with Creuse to make the website.
The original iteration of ClekClekBoom was more of a brand than a record label, Chaoul admits, offering up the music online without a coherent release schedule. This was before the recent increase in vinyl consumption, so they didn't see the point in pressing records that they thought no one would buy. The group's ranks swelled anyway, taking in French unknowns, one of whom was French Fries.
"He was only 14, 15 years old, but he always had this kind of energetic vibe in his productions," says Chaoul.
Chaoul first met Mora when they lived next door to each other. Chaoul let the youngster, who had a love for hip-hop and a budding interest in music, practice on his decks, which quickly fostered a rapport between the two. "I came from hip-hop and dancehall, that kind of stuff," Mora explains. "These two guys showed me the electronic music scene—Chicago house, New York and Baltimore stuff. I was just mixing everything together. I wasn't thinking that much, you know?"
Mora's earliest music, like 2010's Arma on YounGunZ Entertainment, was raucous yet sinuous, melding hip-hop and bass music before trap was the sound du jour. His style was undoubtedly influenced by the large amount of time he was spending in London. With his material only getting better, and with the vinyl market looking much friendlier, the trio decided it was time to turn ClekClekBoom into a label with physical releases.
"We were not nervous about doing the vinyl," Chaoul says, "but we were stressed about how to organize it, how to find the proper mastering, to make a really nice product. We were looking for the proper partners."
It wasn't just the music that was distinctive. Those early 12-inches came housed in elegant, ultra-modern sleeves, adorned with evocative geometric shapes. Sleek with a simple white-on-black template, the packaging was suggestive of the clean lines and professional sheen of the music itself, and it hinted at how seriously Creuse, Chaoul and Mora took their label. "Basically, we were looking for something that fits with the music, that won't age with time," says Chaoul. "It was not a concept or anything. We were just looking for something very simple."
"We wanted something classic, but still with an impact," adds Creuse, who produces the artwork. "During my research I fell into what is called impossible figures [optical illusions]. Especially the first four records—it's a mental trick, there's a twist when you look at it. It looks really simple, but when you look at it a bit longer, you see that there is something twisted about it. I thought it would fit the productions."
The holistic approach the three take to their label—where getting every last detail right is paramount—is part of what makes the endeavour so impressive. ClekClekBoom is its own tight little axis in the Paris scene, with the kind of unified, distinctly familial ethos that many great record labels have. All of the producers who release on the label might have their own idiosyncratic take on bass music, but there's something in it that connects them, something less quantifiable—an attitude.
"First of all, everyone in ClekClekBoom are friends," explains Creuse. "It's a big family. We hang out all the time together. The thing is, we don't want everybody to be the same, and everyone comes from a different background. There is always something that links us."
"I know everybody is making music, right now, as I'm talking to you," Mora says. "When someone from the label is gonna bring something new, we all get excited about it, and we all wanna do something that comes with it. We talk to each other all the time."
"In ClekClekBoom, there are many different types of people. People that are 20 years old, people that study," says Chaoul. "Everybody is influenced by each other, because we listen. It's like we learn a lot from each other."
"We always like to surprise each other," says Creuse.
"It's not like a competition, but it's... sharing. That's how it works," Chaoul finishes.
ClekClekBoom is a fiercely local group: all but one of their acts, New Zealanders Chaos In The CBD, live in Paris, and they're proud of their city. "I'm interested to go to Berlin," Chaoul says, "but I am not a German guy, or an American. The thing we have done with ClekClekBoom... we have created a universe inside Paris. We have the studio, we have the office, we invited some friends to work with us in the same office. What makes the difference," he continues, pausing to think. "Maybe it's because... first there is the friendship. I think that's why we have this unity in our sound. It's how it works with design, with everything. It's like we're communists—that's a little bit strong of a word, but, how you say, people complain, people are happy. It's like a family."
Since Paris Club Music Vol. 1, ClekClekBoom have continued to seek out new artists, snapping up Aleqs Notal and the promising duo NSDOS, and dropping a stellar 12-inch of tectonic house from Chauol and Mattias Mimoun under the name Aethority. The sleeves are now decorated with futurist portraits of the artists, a much different aesthetic to the original run but equally eye-catching. But their crown jewel is French Fries' debut album, Kepler, a space-themed affair that's one giant leap away from clubby functionalism for the label. It's to ClekClekBoom's style what Jam City's Classical Curves was to Night Slugs, or Logos' Cold Mission was to Keysound.
"To me, an album is not supposed to be about the club anyways," says Mora. "I'm not stressed about that, but I am a bit stressed because the album is so personal. It was just me in the studio for five months, and that was actually the only time I didn't speak to anybody—that was kind of a strange moment for me. I created a story in my head, a sci-fi story, and then I did music for every chapter. People won't necessarily know it. It's proper imagination, you know? It's kind of like when you dream, you don't necessarily want to tell all your dreams—sometimes it's just too strange and too personal."
Kepler might not sound like much else on ClekClekBoom, but it's still unmistakably a product of the ever-ambitious label, connecting dots between disparate genres and musical histories in new and idiosyncratic ways. Like every other slab of vinyl they've produced, it never sounds belaboured or forced. It's the kind of hands-on fusion that comes from doing what comes naturally instead of dwelling on categories, genres or trends.
"Now that the label has been around for two years," Mora says, "everybody asks us all the time, 'So what kind of music do you make? Do you make techno, do you make UK bass, do you make UK funky, do you make French touch?' We don't like this, so we just say, 'Fuck it, Paris club music!'"
Download: RA Label of the Month 1402 Mix: ClekClekBoom
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Filesize: 160 MB
French Fries - Trying To Understand Curiosity
Manaré - Automat
French Fries - Change The Past
Barbara Ford - Frostbite Alternate Version Var 7.
Aleqs Notal - Informal Utility
Chaos In The CBD - Trial Rider
Aethority - Untitled
Coni - The Opposit
Aleqs Notal - Ancient Theory
NSDOS - Meridien S-Dos
French Fries - Bug Noticed
Jean Nipon - Untitled Girl
Coni - Flip
French Fries - This Kind Of Setup
NSDOS - Tropical Data
Coni - Exit To Comfort Zone