Power, blackness, feeling… Here are some of the words that come to mind when you immerse yourself into the listening of “Time”. The new album by the Parisian duo indeed succeeds to marry a cutting-edge electronic music to a robotic melancholy and new wave romanticism abandoned of any eighties nostalgia. Cut for the dance floor like for the living room, this record possesses even a vigour and a modernity that easily outclasses electroclash fusion attempts from the beginning of the 2000s. This vigour, Maud Geffray and Sebastien Chenut get it from their assiduous practice of DJing. Every week-end they deliver numerous sets to the four corners of the world, between their monthly residency at the Pulp (the historical and hysteric Naked nights, from which they recently have drawn an excellent CD) their regular visits to Madrid’s Nature and tours that bring them regularly to the outskirts of Europe, of Asia or of the United-States. For more than a year, they have even been the privileged witnesses of a new electro reign on the club scene that has given a grandstand welcome to the return of rock. If admittedly, the mixture of genres doesn’t shock anybody on the dance floors, even if pop melodies and raging guitars often telescope with rhythm boxes (which is often the case on this album), the power of synthetic sound has found again all it’s strength with a new audience. Indeed, many ignore it today, but the present supremacy of rock masks a more complex reality and a particularly creative scene in the electro field. Far away from the majors and the media, the international techno network has been for two years the object of a big renewal and witnesses of a lot of creative experiments, one of which the second album of the Scratch Massive is an ideal example. After passing through Warner at the beginning of the 2000s, at a time where majors tried to exploit the effects of the French Touch, the Scratch Massive realized it would be hard for them to adapt to the restrictive system of record companies. Since then, Maud and Sebastien have operated a salutary return to independency amidst their label from which, from now on, they manage their whole career, with no exterior pressure nor energy loss. After a remarked maxi LP and a real underground tube released on the German label Traum (the unavoidable Girls On Top), they’re releasing their album on their own structure Chateaurouge represented by the talented label/ distributor Nocturne, and have licensed Time for a world distribution to the prestigious Cologne (Köln) based label, Kompakt. Today, it’s in Germany that it’s happening, and it’s in that country that, as it is, that the la to international electronic tendencies is given. Furthermore, it’s one of the most illustrious of Berlin figures that helped out the Scratch Massive on their album, in the person of Moritz Von Oswald, founder of the Maurizio duo, who insured the mastering stage. His work brings to Time warmth and precision that confers to the album a nice sonic power, which we’re far from finding in today’s groups. As for the mixing done by Nicolas Borne and Pierre-Yves Casanova (authors of maxi LP’s under the name Sex Schön) their technique brings brightness and highlights the particularly chiselled electro of the group. “Dubbed” by such an illustrious figure as Von Oswald, the time, seems very far (around 1993), where young Sebastien and Maud met in La Baule clubs – on the Atlantic ocean front. For a while, they’re part of this raving and clubbing generation travelling throughout France and its parties and they don’t hesitate to go hundreds of miles to listen to Garnier at the Rex club. That celebrating period and that enchanted parenthesis, is also one concerning their couple, which only lasted for a while, giving birth to a musical duo some time later, in 1998, and to a fistful of first electro maxi LPs remarked in 1999, on the Euterpe label. After that, comes a first album Enemy & Lovers in 2003, often striking maxi LPs (Icebreaker), uplifting remixes (for John Lord Fonda, Telepopmusik or Demon), solo singles for Sebastien (under the pseudonym Harvey Smithfield), a CD from their label, participations in excellent compilations (Ivan Smagghe, 2 Many Djs, Colin Dale…), their mixed CD released last year (in which Soulwax, Nina Hagen, !!!, Steve Bug or Death in Vegas telescoped), the soundtrack of a movie directed by Zoe Cassavetes (Broken English, soon in a theatre near you) and last but not least Time. An album that they define as a record of “black electronic” (titles like Silence or Shadows don’t lie) given with an evident “rock filiation” and a “new wave inspiration” from which the pivotal track would be the well named Soleil Noir (ndtr Black Sun). This strange and unreal track if it possesses nor the vigour nor the energy of other tracks on the album indeed concentrates in 5’30’’ a good part of aesthetic sound. Cutting and tortured sounds, icy choirs, languid melodies as well as a round and swollen bass illustrate well the way the Scratch Massive have been able to recycle the melancholic and dark inheritance of New Wave, from Three Imaginary Boys by The Cure (Maud’s favourite album, which here gives place to an appeased cover sung by Frank Arbaretaz) passing by 4AD productions, the baroque of Kas Product, the martial vigour of Electronic Body Music, or the modern spleen of Radiohead (Sebastien says he admires above all the production work of Nigel Godrich for Thom Yorke’s band). But don’t be mistaken, the Scratch Massive don’t claim to rival with the Cure’s or Radiohead’s nocturnal poetry. More simply, with this album, they’re signing a modern electronic album, that assumes totally it’s pop filiation, but to better turn away from it’s clichés, from it’s imperative figures or from the rampant nostalgia of the 2000s.
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