I fully understand how the French can view Americans as backwards thinking hicks with no sense of style, but I wonder if they understand the point of view that Americans have of them? And, in writing that, I have no idea what that means. Gone are the days of `freedom fries’ and the like, and French-bashing doesn’t even seem slightly funny, it just seems hateful. These days, it seems as though there is a view of the French as arty elitists, at the very least, with its inhabitants eating the finest food in the world, seeing the finest cinema, reading the finest books and listening to the most elegant music. Even their electronic music, up to this point, has retained that touch of elegance in bands like Air and Sebastien Tellier. Heck, even Daft Punk and Justice seem somehow restrained at times. Enter Turzi, to turn our concept of French music on its ear. Turzi, named after bandleader Romain Turzi, is a five-piece from Versailles looking to dispel any preconceptions about French electronic music, and they’re doing it with force and rhythm.
Turzi’s press sheet lists an A-Z of things to know about the band, a clever little way to release relevant information. I suppose this is to go along with the `concept of A, that is an album of songs that all begin with that letter. The most interesting things listed in the sheet are the fact that they play all of their synthesized music live. They don’t rely on studio trickery to get their finished sound. Another tidbit, which makes sense once you listen to the album, is that each song is composed with the idea of cinematic narrative in mind. So, each track is like a mini score to a yet unmade film. This still doesn’t quite prepare you for what A has in store. It begins innocuously enough, with a few tracks that vary from ambient tones to songs that could easily be placed into one of today’s modern action films, like the newly revamped James Bond films. In fact, that’s not a bad idea. Maybe they should get in touch with Turzi.
However, as the A songs progress, we start to see the bigger picture that displays the palette from which Turzi paints their musical pictures. One of the highlights comes in the gothic industrial tune “Are You Thinking About Jesus?” a song that is reminiscent of the great ’80s tune, “AEIOU sometimes Y” by EBN-OZN. Our narrator begins to dance with a girl and is prompted, by his upbringing, to ask the girl if she is thinking about Jesus. She pushes him away, and he learns his lesson, “Jesus has no place on the dance floor.” I wish I could have put the song in my top 50 for our year-end lists. We are then exposed to tribal psychedelic funk (“Afghanistan”), Kraftwerk or Neu!-like treks (“Acid Taste”), early Depeche Mode electro-romantic drama (“Amadeus”), Bauhaus / Love & Rockets goth-pop (“Attila Blues”), surf punk (“Allah Delon”) and robot driven Krautrock (“Axis of Gold”).
The fact that all of this comes from the same band is fairly extraordinary, but the further idea that all of it is listenable, compelling and fun is mind-blowing. Kemado Records has had their fair share of great albums before this year including sets by Lansing-Dreiden, The Fever and the Sword. Now, it’s fair to say that Turzi can be added to that list as a late savior to 2007.