introducing internet wave, the french punk of the future
The French internet wave music scene — think Eurodance and trap combined with high-speed broadband — is one of the most prolific in existence. Here are the artists to watch.
This article was originally published by i-D France.
They hate being categorized and don't claim to have any affiliations. The very title of this article will anger them. So why try to group them under one heading? After all, in an individualist society, everyone likes to tout their own unique uniqueness. It's the pitfall of journalists to constantly want to put people in boxes. The father of this scene — because yes, it does have roots — even rejects the term "internet wave." Teki Latex, a protean artist who continually seeks out genre-bending projects, does not accept this designation. And yet, one cannot deny that this is indeed a scene, with its own codes, crews, trends, favorite spots, and collaborating members. Their music is infused with some of the same elements: An apocalyptic gloom set against a backdrop of post-industrial sounds that are inextricably tied to the ephemeral nature of the internet.
Some err towards trap, some towards Eurodance; others are more R&B. All, however, create music that superimposes different genres, without setting any limits on their creativity. All create their music digitally, straight out of those same computers that continually spit out internet content and video games on demand. Their electronic music is the kind that makes no concessions. So is internet wave the punk of the future? The answer, obviously, is yes.
It sprouted from a generation that dreams — secretly or not — to short-circuit the mainstream, to play with its codes (because you can't escape your origins) in order to sublimate them. This is a generation that figures things out on its own, making do on welfare and subsidized housing, trying to forge a path by crafting DIY machines, hacking software that's much too expensive, and squatting with their roommates in crappy apartments. They didn't want to follow the model society was proposing; they even mocked what was being offered. And yet they dreamed of glory, awash in the glow of reality TV competitions. After all, everything is a question of posture. All you have to do today is strike a pose in order to sell something, and this generation accepts that. These punks of the future aren't trying to overthrow the powers that be — they're just creating a parallel world while reaping whatever profits the real world throws their way. Some have chosen to settle in Japan, England, and the US, because we live in a globalized world. Borders no longer exist, despite what some politicians like to say, so why confine ourselves to the invisible borders that separate one genre from another? Internet wave is like quicksand: What it is today is different than what it'll be tomorrow. It moves as quickly as the high-speed broadband that powers it. Yesterday, it was more techno; today, it's more trap or hardcore. But all of this says very little — the best thing is to listen. Here are eight French artists inventing the music of the future.
With an almost omniscient outlook, M-O-R-S-E has been observing the evolution of experimental music for a while now. Last year, he made a mixtape of 43 tracks, bringing together nearly all the players of the internet wave scene. But M-O-R-S-E is more than a mere observer — he produces his own sounds at lightning speed. His EP Volume 1, released a few months ago, is a kind of nightmare told by a robotic, melancholic voice. M-O-R-S-E is a hard-tune enthusiast, applying dehumanizing filters to every voice that sings for him. In between sounds of gunshots, broken windows, and screeching sirens, he layers his lamentations atop carefully crafted trap beats. In its overall structure, this EP subscribes to the format of pop music: To each track, a single melody. This is a step away from the ambient, infinite sounds that first lured him towards music. Migu (who previously collaborated with rapper Los Angeles Bones) makes an appearance on Volume 1, as does Swan Meat, a hardcore techno DJ from Chicago. These collaborations certify that M-O-R-S-E is one of the most interesting figures in this scene.
Not long ago, she was trying to get answers from Siri regarding serious metaphysical questions. It must've not worked, because Coucou Chloé went looking for truths elsewhere — in London, to be exact. Clearly the internet wave scene there, with labels like PC Music, is constantly reinventing itself. Coucou Chloé just created her own label, Nuxxe, with two other artists, Shygirl and Sega Bodega. Her music became further radicalized, resulting in a kind of hardcore, metallic footwork that increasingly leaves room for vocals. Hopped up on autotune, her rap is composed of disenchanted lyrics set against oriental vibes — a kind of newspeak that blurs all the lines.
He is one of the most radical internet wave artists, and is part of the PermaInk label's crew. Until recently, My Sword was known as Ninja Sword. Internet wave is a protean art; it likes to change its identity regularly. His music is a chaos of extreme, apocalyptic sounds shrouded in darkness. The self-identified "bedroom producer" makes music from Lyon, in the south of France, on a sporadic basis. Every three months, he posts hardcore techno tracks on his Soundcloud, which are free to download, and, according to their maker, are un-categorizable. The music is frightening; it hits you hard, right in the gut. It may as well be the soundtrack to a video game.
They're like the cool girls in high school — the pretty ones who are kind of freaks and slowly become more and more unattainable. TGAF is a crew composed of OK Lou, Carin Kelly, DJ Ouai, and Miley Serious, four "gyals on fiyah" who record a show for Piiaf radio every week. They all share a deep passion for tawdry R&B à la Justin Bieber, and own up to that wholeheartedly. Two years ago, OK Lou was discovered by the RedBull Music Academy as part of a big American Idol-type competition that was, tragically, cut short by the November 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris. Yet her brilliance still got the attention of festivals, agents, and labels. Her disenchanted dancehall redrafted the outlines of pop and won the hearts of many a sensitive soul, so she decided to bring her friends Carin Kelly, DJ Ouai, and Miley Serious into the fold. All produce hybridized music, a mix of dance music, reggaeton, and hardcore techno. TGAF is a product of 15 years of pop culture sublimated by our era's general gloom.
A delicate, definitively pop soul, Lëster can play a two-hour Eurodance set without blinking. He is passionate about trance and likes to integrate more acidic, hardcore sounds into his "emo-pop," which harkens back to eastern European 90s hits. He also has a thing for pop remixes, which he spins inside a vocoder, and is known for his mind-bending performances during the Coucou trance parties he co-founded. He makes videos for all his tracks, which combine Snapchat filters, emojis, Clipart images… all the kitsch the internet has to offer. The EP Oxa is the fruit of two years of musical production that transcends the genre of pop.
Text Marie-Lou Morin
Translation Noémie Bonnet
Image courtesy Lëster