Live review: Anoraak + College

Bootlegs, News - Published: 30 July 2012

French Producer/DJ Frédéric Rivière teams up with fellow Valerie Collective label mate College

Anoraak_live_review_paris_maroquinerieAnoraak is about to launch a mega U.S. tour. Though the group sings in English, the French trio have yet to cultivate a major Anglophone audience (on the music world validating scale, they have gone unnoticed on Pitchfork, although they did play SXSW this past March and have been mentioned on Brooklyn Vegan). Under their belt, they’ve got Nightdrive With You (made over a three-year period with just a computer and a guitar) and the 11-song album Wherever the Sun Sets.

Their music could easily be considered part of the same family tree as Washed Out and M83. Anoraak tracks are, in a word, balmy. Fittingly, outside their show on Monday, it was breezy and cool. On rue Sorbier, a street musician sat and strummed his guitar in a hushed voice to the half-listening patrons of La Laverie. But just a 3-minute walk away, La Maroquinerie was teeeeeeeming with people, crammed into every nook and cranny and steaming like hipster bathhouse. “Ca fait du bien de voir autant de monde un lundi soir à Paris,” marveled Frédéric Rivière, Anoraak frontman.

When I’d first noticed Rivière flipped-up jean jacket collar, I though Hoooo boy, another performer who thinks he’s hella slick but Rivière is extremely likable and nothing if not full-on authentic with enthusiasm about his tunes. Amidst the layers of synthesized sound, there is an engaging urgency in his voice when he sings, and when he’s plucking out just the right layers of pinging and buzzing, he is so giddy and into it that it is infectious.

On the bill that night were favorites like “You Taste like Cherry”, “Try me,” and the ultimate sweaty-weather anthem, “Long Hot Summer Night,” each blasting out 100%-80s-ness. “Waiting for your call” slowed the pace down somewhat, an electro slow jam to the pulsating songs previous. Every single one felt like something that should background a movie starring young James Spader in enormous sunglasses and/or a gaggle of girls sporting scrunchied side-ponytails and not-kidding-around-sized shoulder pads. Yet somehow, it didn’t feel pastiche-y; it felt like Rivière had mined the right elements from that era, and the rest was blithely fresh and fun. Which is perhaps a testament to how reintegrated the ‘80s have become in the 2010s, but so be it. Anoraak’s tacky ‘80s California vibe mixed with sly Eurotrash synth is a fine cocktail indeed: it works like magic to get you dancing.

Anoraak was followed by their buddy and sometime collaborator, College (David Grellier). He could be rechristened a low-enthusiasm Moby: a weakly-looking white dude with glasses poking at knobs, occasionally head-bobbing, but mostly hunched and pecking at the mechanisms before him. As a techno act, he was a somewhat unfortunate follow-up to Anoraak, who definitely understood the phrase “stage presence” in a way College did not. His music is unquestionably danceable (and often awesomely, wonkily eerie), but there was not a trace of performance. The only thing that differentiated this from him practicing in his basement (or wherever) was the montage of kitschy morphology videos and tawdry graphics bursting out behind him.

People kept getting off-the-charts excited at the beginning of every song, each of which vaguely sounds like the iconic one featured in Drive (you know, “A Real Hero”), then they would realize it was something else and still be into it, but much less so. His music was fun—the oomtz oomtz of “Teenage Color” is, undeniably, a get-your-blood-racing track—but as the electro tunes bled together with a complete absence of onstage gusto, it felt a bit tiresome. Qui sait: maybe the American tour will help kick things up a notch.