Dusting Off… 'Super Discount' by Étienne de Crécy
Quest que c’est ‘French Touch’?
Mention the words ‘French Touch’ to most fans of house music and the chances are that the first name on their lips will be Daft Punk, which is fair enough; their 1997 debut Homework was certainly responsible for bringing the sound of French house music to the masses. The duo were also involved in a number of side projects which also typify the French Touch sound - Modjo, Stardust and Together to name a few – but before Daft Punk there was Cassius. And before that, there was Étienne de Crécy.
Let’s rewind a little bit here and take a quick history lesson: Étienne Bernard Marie de Crécy was born in Lyon in 1969, moving to Versailles in the 1980s where he attended the same college as Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoît Dunckel of the band Air, as well as Alex Gopher, with whom he later co-founded the label Solid. He then moved to Paris to work as an engineer at ‘+XXX’ studios, where he met Phillipe Zdar. Zdar, along with BoomBass, would later become one half of the duo Cassius who were themselves responsible for much of the French Touch sound. Prior to this though, Zdar and de Crécy formed a short-lived act named Motorbass.
Aside from a couple of E.P.s in 1992/93, Motorbass’ only release was their 1996 album Pansoul, described as a mixture of hip-hop and instrumental house. Critically acclaimed but reportedly selling only around 20,000 copies – partly due to their decision to self-release and distribute the album – Pansoul nevertheless laid the ground work for what both members would do next.
So what’s it like?
The term ‘French Touch’ was first coined by Melody Maker’s Martin James, who used the phrase to describe de Crécy’s debut, Super Discount. In this sense you could argue that this is the first record of the sub-genre and it basically sets the template for the French sound: influenced by the Chicago house scene and heavily reliant on filtered samples and loops, Super Discount is a spacey, relatively chilled affair that owes much to acts like Space and Sheila B. Devotion, but also the groups from the P-Funk scene like George Clinton’s Parliament and Funkadelic. There are even elements of the chilled, Balearic house spun by the likes of Ibiza legend Alfredo and it wasn’t long before the island was dancing to the sounds of these new French imports.
From the opening track ‘Le Patron Est Devenu Fou!’ (‘The boss has gone mad!), Super Discount is a slowly building trip where one track merges with another, the kind of house record that is as well suited to a Sunday morning as it is to a Saturday night. Deep, hypnotic basslines and dreamy, soulful vocal samples make it easy to see why the sound was such a hit on the Balearic beaches. Highlights include ‘Prix Choc’ with its repetitive Rhodes piano riff and distinctive “Sensimilla, Marijuana” vocal sample, ‘Soldissimo’, essentially a dreamy remix of Air’s ‘All I Need’, and ‘Liquidation Totale’, one of the more uptempo tracks on the album and one that is heavily influenced by the Chicago-based deep house scene of the early 90s.
Who will enjoy it?
Anyone who enjoys acts like Daft Punk, Cassius and Mr. Oizo, or the output of labels like Kitsune Maison and Busy P.’s Ed Banger Records, should really add this to their record collections in the near future. Similarly, if you are one of those clubbers that seems to find themselves in the chillout room more often than not, this record is bound to appeal.