antinote's homemade techno in the new sound of the french underground
Quentin Vandewalle and Gwen Jamois's Antinote's approach to music defines everything great about the magpie spirit of the 21st century.
It's early-ish afternoon in Bastille, Paris. Two men, one French, one British, are sitting around a table in a classical Art Nouveau café. Going against all clichés, the former orders a cup of tea and the latter a glass of white wine. Arguably, it is similar cultural mélange and refusal to succumb to stereotypes that has led the pair to be at the forefront of the country's underground techno scene. Quentin 'Zaltan' Vandewalle and Gwen Jamois aka Check Morris, are the founders of indie electro label 'Antinote', which they run out of Paris' village-like 11th arrondissement.
The duo, almost 13 years apart in age, met in Le Baron Rouge, a nearby bar owned by Vandewalle's uncle, that Jamois rarely ever leaves. Quentin, a DJ with a love for all things electronic - from Detroit techno to Italo-disco - was, like Gwen, a musician and man-about-town, and a frenetic collector of vinyl records. The two decided to pair up in 2012 and create a label in order to release Gwen's personal work - which was no simple affair. The latter had spent the early 90s working as a sound engineer in a reggae recording studio in Brixton - and stayed over extra hours to use the equipment to create his own project under the name of Iueke. Despite recording dozens of tapes of dark, stormy techno sounds, he never felt the need to release any. "Back then, that wasn't what we were about. We rejected any capitalist idea and focused on creating music for our immediate circle of friends instead" Jamois remembers. Unfortunately, he hadn't changed his mind much when Quentin came across it two decades later. "It took me months to convince him; I wasn't interested in releasing a 'vintage' sound but rather, loved the fact that his music hadn't aged a bit, and was still as groundbreaking today. That's what Antinote is all about" Vandewalle explains.
The tapes, stored for safety under Gwen's mum's kitchen sink, were packed in a plastic bag "next to the toilet cleaner" - but were soon to be celebrated by dedicated followers worldwide.
This immediately launched the duo into the heart of a niche French scene. They agreed to continue producing music from all eras and styles "as long as they are relevant to today, never yearning for the past" the two believe.
Some are found records, other ultra-emerging Soundcloud feeds they've discovered whilst browsing the web, but are always released under the same conditions: "No remixes of bigger names allowed", they insist, " you attract people for the wrong reasons, the musician's original work should speak for itself." Antinote also looks for an approach that is "locally-made, sincere, relaxed" - evoking Gwen's initial, anti-consumerist approach. This vision has led them to produce recent underground successes including Albinos, desperately catchy low-fi tracks with a global twist; 70s inspired Nico Motte; Syracuse's psychadelic house-tinted sounds. Ongoing projects include the release of Shirabe Inoue, a 25-year-old from Okayama, Japan whose passions are "making music and sleeping"; but also the release of a found vintage ballet soundtrack, and the release of Iueke's fourth record. "This is all about not missing music anymore" said Jamois.
Text Alice Pfeiffer