Vive La Fete
he French are, it has to be said, very good at speaking French. It’s an incredible language. Non-French people speaking French may even be better. My French vocabulary may not be particularly broad but my pronunciation is, so I’ve been told, outstanding. But English people generally don’t do French very well unless they’re Jane Birkin. Other Europeans handle it better, perhaps because they’re much less disgusted by the idea of learning foreign languages than we are (i.e. they’re not insular idiots). Monica Belluci in Brotherhood Of The Wolf speaking French with an Italian lilt is possibly the sexiest thing I’ve ever seen (that she’s wearing a bodice, carrying a razor-sharp fan and assassinating people in the midst of a werewolf-inspired furore may have something to do with it as well). Els Pynoo and Danny Mommens, AKA Vive La Fete, are Belgian. Els sings in French as a second language and Danny makes the most lusciously squalid synthetic fashionista pulse directly beneath her like a bed of laconically bubbling electronic sex. This is not unlike Monica Belluci fronting the best electroclash band in the world ever covering Serge Gainsbourg songs in the style of Evanescence as remixed by Alexander Kowalski. If that doesn’t make you squirm with excitement then you need to get out of the house more often.
Sheffield is one of the dirtiest cities I’ve ever been to. Industrial areas where the steelworks used to be are like something out of Blade Runner; narrow streets framed by high factory walls caked in soot and grime, black with filth, towering over you and closing you in. I may not have been there in ten years but that’s my abiding memory of the place as refracted through time and geography. Given this oppressive topography it’s not surprising that this particular corner of Britain should have been birthplace to so much awesome post-industrial music, from Cabaret Voltaire through The Human league to Warp Records. Vive La Fete are just a little more exotic though; people calling you ‘duck’ in a Yorkshire accent can simply never be as sexy as a Belgian girl yowling about staying out all night in French over a sea of filtersweeps, drum machines and analogue squelch (my perfunctory grasp of French tells me that a Nuit Blanche means to stay up all night on the town, or something).
“Jaloux” is more Gary Numan than “Freak Like Me”, half-inching the melody from “Cars” and transposing it into a Gallic context. “Mr Le President” is ice cold and flirts with political insurrection (possibly) just as much as it does nihilistically attired club-goers. Elsewhere the synths occasionally devolve into the noise of planes taking off and landing very far away, and semi-sentient robots regurgitate melodies in binary code. From time to time Els gives up French altogether and reverts to almost feral yelps, moans and whoops, which given the sensuality of the musical backing can’t help but be given heavily erotic inferences. This vibrant energy reaches a feverish climax on the astonishing “Noir Desir” (‘black desire’, unsurprisingly), wherein Danny Mommens cranks up both the cybernetics and the miasmic guitars until they literally break the song apart on at least three occasions, only to shock it back to life again repeatedly for one last rush. Els, caught in the maelstrom, loses her shit and simply begins screaming, blurring the line between orgasm and agony to the point where the listener becomes voyeur and has to turn away awkwardly but keeps listening nonetheless. It’s extraordinary, exciting and uncomfortable all at the same time, in the best possible way. Nuit Blanche is damn near as wonderful as it feels. And it feels lush.
Reviewed by: Nick Southall
Reviewed on: 2004-02-02