|This article needs additional citations for verification. (April 2007)|
|Stylistic origins||Eurodance, Euro disco, disco, hi-NRG, P-Funk, Chicago house, deep house|
|Cultural origins||Late 1980s-mid-1990s in Europe and US|
|Typical instruments||Sampler, drum machine, synthesizer, sequencer|
|Disco house, nu-disco|
|Disco, italo house, italo disco|
French house is a catch-all term for house music produced by many French artists, a popular strand of the late 1990s and 2000s European dance music scene and a form of Euro disco. The genre has also been referred to as "nu-disco" (new disco, distinct from the non-house "nu-disco" revival), "French touch", "filter house" and "tekfunk" over the years. The defining characteristics of the sound are heavy reliance on filter and phaser effects both on and alongside samples from late 1970s and early 1980s American or European disco tracks (or original hooks strongly inspired by such samples). Celebrated and successful purveyors of this music include Daft Punk, Cassius and Etienne de Crécy. Most tracks in this vein feature steady 4/4 beats with a tempo range of 110–130 beats per minute.
History and influences
French house is greatly influenced by the lineage of American dance music from the emergence of disco onwards, maintaining a distinct connection to Euro disco and the short lived space disco music style. Space disco was very popular in France, with artists like Cerrone, Space and Sheila B. Devotion during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Additional influences came from P-Funk, especially the George Clinton and Bootsy Collins hits of that era. Due to originating from the same foreign market, P-Funk was played alongside disco in many French discothèques, especially after the Disco Demolition Night took place in the United States. The Jacking aspect of Chicago house was also picked up on as a theme to incorporate (with "jack house" becoming a short-lived descriptive term for the sound in the UK).
Thomas Bangalter's tracks for his Roulé label may be considered the earliest examples of an attempt to establish a distinctive style of house music produced in France. His solo material, along with his work as a member of Daft Punk and Stardust, had a significant impact upon the French house scene during the mid-to-late 1990s. The French duo Motorbass (aka Philippe Zdar, later of Cassius, and Étienne de Crécy) were also among the first in France to produce house tracks which were largely based around samples and filtered loops – in turn inspired by emerging American house producers such as DJ Sneak, Green Velvet and Roger Sanchez and their penchant for producing sample-led house tracks with deep funky grooves. Parisian producer St. Germain produced house tracks with a similar style at the time but these were more directly influenced by Jazz as opposed to the brasher vocal disco records appropriated, while other known French DJ-turned-producers at the time such as François Kevorkian and Laurent Garnier remained relatively distant from the emerging French house label.
The first French house experiments were warmly received by the UK dance music press and European DJ's in the mid-1990s but major commercial success did not occur until 1997. Daft Punk, Cassius and later Stardust were the first internationally successful artists of the genre. Along with Air these acts were signed to Virgin Records and benefited from distinctive music videos directed by the likes of Spike Jonze, Michel Gondry and Alex & Martin. Due to a reasonable amount of buzz generated from the huge clubbing scene and major record company support, Daft Punk's debut album Homework entered the top ten of the UK album charts on release and they effectively became the biggest-selling French act in the UK since Jean-Michel Jarre. The emergence of the French sound was well-timed as dance music's popularity in the influential UK market was peaking commercially with general electronic music.
Further international commercial success continued into 2000 with Bob Sinclar, Etienne de Crécy, Benjamin Diamond and Modjo achieving hit singles around Europe. In late 2005, pop superstar Madonna released Confessions on a Dance Floor, an album with significant French house influences in several of its songs.
Terms, origins and variations
The term "French house" was first used on MTV UK during the Christmas holiday period of 1999. It was used on an MTV News special, to describe a so-called "French house explosion" phenomenon. Bob Sinclar was interviewed, as well as Air and Cassius. That news special later aired on all the MTV local variations worldwide, spreading the term and introducing the "French house" sound to the mainstream.
Prior to that (1996–2000), "French house" had been referred to among Europeans as "nu disco", "disco house" and "new disco". However, the term "French Touch" was first used by music journalist Martin James in his 1996 review of the first Super Discount EP in the now defunct weekly music paper Melody Maker. This term became favoured among the French media and was then widely used in the UK press by 1998. Martin James was later recognised by French newspaper Liberation and Radio NRJ as the journalist responsible for naming the French house phenomenon French Touch.
One of the biggest markets for nu disco at the time, was Greece and especially Athens. A local music shop called Discobole Records imported the records direct from France and middle class clubs like City Groove dedicated totally to the genre between 1998 and 2001. In Greece, this music style was promoted as "disco house".
French house is essentially a combination of three production styles. One is what the French still refer as "the French touch" and it is the style that greatly influenced by the space disco sound. The second is a continuation and update of Euro disco and greatly influenced by the productions of Alec R. Costandinos. The third would be the deep American house style as evident in the similar treatment of samples and repetitive 'funky' hooks. Naturally further variations and mutations followed. French house maintains the established "French touch" sound, focused more on Euro disco-like vocals and less emphasis on the "space disco" themes. However, most of the music's most successful acts have altered their sound since. Bob Sinclar's later work including the big hit "World, Hold On (Children of the Sky)", which had a video based on a science fiction theme, maintains only a distant connection to the original French house sound. Both Daft Punk and Etienne De Crecy developed a harder synthetic sound more directly inspired by techno and electro for their most recent albums.
In Ibiza, disco house took later another direction: it combined vocals and some elements from the UK's speed garage (a mid 1990s music style) with a local Latin flavor. By 2007, many underground disco house productions belonged to the Ibiza school.
French house influenced Benny Benassi for the creation of his "tek-house" music style (also known as "pumping house"). That short lived music style became very popular during 2002–2004 in continental Europe, with artists such Benassi Bros., Royal Gigolos and Shana Vanguarde. During 2007, a crossover of tek house and French house appeared in the French market, with limited success (promoted mostly through the M6Music music channel, W9 and NRJ Music). Most of those hits were remixed in a 2000s (decade) electro house style to reach mainstream audiences, mostly of the new established dance music style called Tecktonik.
Artists associated with the style
Record labels associated with the style
- Village Voice: Daft Punk by Scott Woods
- Suzanne Ely, "Return of the Cybermen" Mixmag, July 2006, pp. 94–98.
- 'French Connections: From Discotheque to Discovery' by Martin James, 2002, Sanctuary Publishing