The musical French revolution that happened in the mid 1990s always seemed to be narrated along the lines of Daft Punk, Laurent Garnier, Dimitri From Paris, or Air. And as usual, since history is told by the winners, the unsung heroes, stayed buried. In 1996 when music creativity was at its climax on both sides – France and the UK – many acts were just as good or better than the ones that made it to the mainstream arena or ended up signing for major labels.
Motorbass is something that happened but did not catch the ears of many. They only did it once. They released an album and disappeared straight away. It was like a cry of genuine musical mastery before moving onto more commercial projects. They did best. The combination of Philippe Zdar (half La Funk Mob and Cassius) and Etienne de Crecy (Super Discount compilations) proved to be explosive: an album of supremely sensual soulful house with strokes of hip hop and glamorous samples. All drenched in warm grooves. Of course, it was not catchy material as it was no ‘Da Funk’ or ‘Around the World’… or even worse… ‘Sexy Boy’. In being ‘catchyless’ it made it perpetual. It did not have a best before date and it sounds as groundbreaking today as it did back in 1996. There was no a song structure in place. It was purely sophisticated hedonism. ‘Pansoul’ did not even catch the attention of many big Djs of back then. But it was a must have LP which was danceable and accessible. It was just too good and quite ahead of its time.
I clearly remember reading the review on Muzik in September 1996. It was chosen album of the month. It was the year when the French took over the electronic music scene as never before. It never happened again. Since the apotheosis of those years, we have never had some many French acts influence so heavily on new trends or music production. The filtered house business died a slow death of repetition and infinite copying by many wannabes. Motorbass was never about filtered house though. It was about breaking barriers and creating something fresh, different and jaw-droppingly sensual. It was the equivalent of what La Funk Mob did for… trip hop. I apologize for the use of such name.
As there is nowhere to be found, I decided to religiously transcribe the Muzik review of this classic for the enjoyment of everyone in the hope to help someone out there to (re)discover the killers inside this album.
Motorbass ‘Pansoul’ (Cassius, France) by Martin James (September 1996)
WHAT’s going on?
There must be something special running through the waters of the Seine right now. A magic ingredient begging to be bottled. Something which has kicked the French into the 20th Century. And given us some of the finest and deepest beats imaginable along the way.
Last month, we reported on the unique atmosphere at Paris’ Rex club. And for the very first time, our Album of the Month spot was shared by two essential discs Francais, the mighty Dimitri From Paris ‘Sacrebleu’ and the equally grand ‘Source Lab 2′. This month, the Parisian connection again strikes gold with Motorbass’ ‘Pansoul’, a record of almost indescribable beauty.
Following the superb ‘Foxy Lady’ single, Cassius’ latest project is the brainchild of Phillippe Zdar, the boss of the label and one half of those legendary abstract beat freaks, La Funk Mob. For this venture, Zdar has teamed up with Etienne de Crecy to produce and album of free-flowing, juice-jacking funk which has already created a major buzz. A few advance copies of ‘Pansoul’ were sneaked into the UK las month and duly flew out of the shops at breakneck speed. London’s Tag Records said it was the open-minded punters who went for it. But apart from a select few, like the Heavenly Saturday Social mob, most DJs remained slow off the mark. How sorry they’re going to be!
So what’s all the fuss about, then? Well, for starters, there are eight tracks of deep house with a hip-hop attitude. It’s also a double-disc of solid jack-tracking bolstered by rough-cut exotica samples and stealth-defying scratching. Oh, and it just happens to be and utterly unique sound, too. For argument’s sake let’s simply say that listening to ‘Pansoul’ opens up a whole new spectrum of sound which really deserves its own individual category.
From the opening beats of ‘Ezio’, the Motorbass manifesto is made abundantly clear. They want you to get on down with the good groove. It’s a funk thing and it could ignite even the frostiest of dancefloors. The mother of all below-the-waist grooves takes you on a journey deep into sexual urgency, basslines slip and slither their way through percussive salsa action, and distant voices call for the break to kick in.
‘Flying Fingers’ could be Monseiur Fingers himself. Liquid keys snake around a shuffling hi-hat until the solid Mantronix-ish b-line hits in. With ‘Les Ondes’, Motorbass take all the funking ingredients and throw in a vocal refrain which could have come from that man Dimitri’s record collection. We’re talking wild exotica seduced by harp flourishes and a pants-level swing.
‘Neptune’ introduces more than a dash of a Seventies superfly vive into the proceedings, an off-beat percussion block pushing the beat to the very edge. ‘Genius’ tilts the mood towards a Latino celebration. ‘Pariscyde’ and ‘Bad Vives (D-mix)’ finish the album in similar style, drawing on the by now expected multifarious angles and making for a trainspotter’s paradise of samples.
All in all ‘Pansoul’ is the sound of swinging post-house Paris diving heart first into deep-fried funk, throwing a fresh colour onto the paintwork of house and licking the lips of Nineties electro-soul.
Sacre bleu indeed!
I would recommend you to go straight to Discogs/eBay and get a vinyl copy of this LP BUT for reasons I cannot understand, the opening track on the CD is not present on any vinyl edition. The track is called ‘Fabulous’ and it is just that… pure class. A slow hypnotic builder… calm dubby and full of incredible effects that take you into uncharted territory. A proper warmer for the storm that ‘Ezio’ brings about.
It is top hi-fi ripped from my own CD version and an all time personal favorite full of memories and nostalgia. Enjoy it!