Annabel Ross offers her take on sets by Tale Of Us, Charlotte de Witte and more at Paris's largest electronic music festival.
Here are five key performances from across the two days.
Ross From Friends
There was a lot of love in the room by the time Dâm-Funk closed his set with Luther Vandross's "Never Too Much." Felix Weatherall, AKA Ross From Friends, kept the mood buoyant, performing alongside his two pals, John Dunk (saxophone, keys) and Jed Hampson (electric guitar). Weatherall created dreamy soundscapes of loping beats, moody vocals and pastel '80s synth washes, with occasional crackle and tape hiss heightening the sense of nostalgia. There was the odd siren here and trap-y passage there, but for the most part it was all glowy chords and gooey vibes from the current act most likely to make you dance and cry at the same time.
Chloé Thévenin does away with a computer in her live setup "to make it more intuitive," and that came across as she reconfigured 2017's Endless Revisions LP for a festival setting. Using synthesisers, drum machines and a bunch of pedals, she created frosty walls of sonic tension, often penetrated by her own voice sampled and looped over the top or a thwack on the hi-hat. On a night where so much of the music came from machines, her organic sound was thrilling. The more delicate moments—an opening of eerie organ or warped string synths—were offset by abrupt switches into electro and techno with touches of new wave and post-punk, imbuing her set with more personality than any other techno artist at the festival. It was a masterclass in texture and atmosphere, with enough oomph to launch the party into peak-time mode.
Charlotte de Witte
Charlotte de Witte has a relaxed, easy composure behind the decks, as if she was playing to a bunch of friends at a house party and not a thousands-strong crowd. After eight years of DJing, she's also fairly well-versed in failsafe techno 101. At The Peacock Society, a massive kick drum was ever-present, but she changed the mood enough to hold your attention, as bleepy, anxious synths gave way to more snapping sounds. The effect was like a whip-crack on the dance floor. Towards the end, the set took on an almost hi-NRG quality, with a memorable vocal that was part woman's wail, part victory cry. Some criticism has been levelled at de Witte for her allegedly unoriginal take on techno, and there was little that felt new about her set. But the room lapped it up regardless as she delivered a huge, rewarding climax. Job done, then.
Tale Of Us
Other than Solomun, who played a well-received set at Warehouse the night before, Tale Of Us were probably the most eagerly anticipated act of the weekend. Back in Paris for the second time in a week (after playing at Charles de Gaulle airport last Monday), the duo showed why they're doing so well. At once muscular, melodic and kinetic, their set was a livelier take than expected on their dark tech house sound, with an added dash of trance. Moody Afterlife set-pieces still got a good showing—their own "Nova" and the flanged-chord shuffle of Fideles' "Lotus"—but the biggest cheer went to Johannes Brecht's remix of Portishead's "SOS," a recent addition to Tale Of Us's sets and already a winner.
In a review of a 2012 Maetrik EP, Kristan J Caryl wrote: "it makes sense for Eric Estornel to keep stoking the fires of his Maetrik moniker because, even he surely knows, you can't be as popular as Maceo Plex in 2011 without an inevitable backlash. On this evidence, though, leave it much longer and the two monikers will be tough to tease apart." While his Maetrik material sits at the weirder, techier end of his output, there's still not necessarily a huge amount to distinguish it from some of his recent Maceo Plex releases. (I've seen him play tougher as Maceo Plex at one of his Mosaic parties in Ibiza.) That said, he's a reliable DJ under any alias, and his sophisticated, punchy tech house set was a festival highlight. It included crowd favourites such as his new remix of Vangelis's "Blade Runner" and an unreleased track that's been part of his recent repertoire.
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