A tour of a vast audio world
Lucy Harbron
11:21 30th March 2021

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La Femme are best known for their refusal to pocket themselves, sound-hopping with every release. When you think of French music, you probably think of slow sensual odes swaying in the cigarette smoke; but since their 2013 debut, La Femme have been redefining the landscape of French pop. Defying genres and mixing a big pot of influences, why would they limit themselves when the results could sound this good? Showing the exciting results of musical rebellion, on their third album Paradigmes, La Femme take us on a tour of their vast audio world. 

Within moments of the opening title track, the band manage to create an atmosphere that’s at once so nostalgic and so new. Finding a mid-point between an '80s video game, a Brooklyn street party and outer-space, the horns that cut through the sci-fi inspired intro immediately build a captivating sound that’s undeniably cinematic. Captured perfectly in the music video, ‘Paradigmes’ feels like the opening of a film, like La Femme grabbing you by the collar, sitting you down and saying ‘this is our show, pay attention’.

But maybe film isn’t right...maybe this is more of a TV series as each track transports you to a different setting - from the UK punk scene to the wild west. With each song, the band seem to dip into a new pot of influences and inspirations, calling up the work of the likes of Lou Reed, The Clash and Kraftwerk as an eclectic mix. On ‘Disconnexion’, especially, they contrast a more traditional French spoken-word style vocal with a frantic country banjo, merging two vastly different musical cultures for something totally new that gives the album’s story a different tempo. Like taking two recipes and mixing them to make a whole new cuisine, La Femme’s signature experimental approach takes a step up into something pioneering, tossing the rule book out of the window as they speed through these different worlds. 

Yet while we travel, the record’s madness is backed up by moments of concrete reference. On ‘Foutre le Bordel’, translated as “fuck it up”, the spirit of The Clash, The Ramones and The Sex Pistol’s archaistic punk is undeniable. The big anthemic, chanting chorus proves that attitude is trans-lingual as the French electro-pop outfit manage to step seamlessly into some heavy Dr Martens and then immediately out into some dancing shoes for then jazz-infused ‘Nouvelle-Orleans’; an impressive quick change without a moment of excitement lost.

Having already released six tracks from the record, each paired with an impressive visual, the album is a captivating start to finish listen with a hooking flow and not a moment of filler. Despite moving between different references and sounds, the changes in pace never feel jarring as the familiar French vocals guide you through while different sounds dip in and out like returning characters. All underpinned by the band’s signature synth-heavy, electronic undercurrent to maintain some level of uniformity in these varied vignettes, the album feels like an adventure to move through rather than a messy collection of different tracks. 

After travelling far and wide in a unique musical world, a special moment comes with the final track, ‘Tu T’en Lasses’. Wrapping up the album’s maximalism, the band pull out the only unexpected twist they have left; minimalism. With a steady bass synth and drum beat, paired with simply blues guitar, Lisa Hartmann and Marlon Magnée’s velvety vocals take centre stage in a haunting final offering. By the time the jazz horns find their way back in, this time subdued and more sombre, you feel the credits start to roll on La Femme’s show, the musical equivalent to one of those films that make you sit in the cinema long after it’s ended. 

So bold, so adventurous and so expertly crafted, Paradigmes is a daring feat that feels like the culmination of all their prior releases. Without any strict genre expectations to meet or labels to hold back their fun, La Femme are free to constantly one-up themselves, pushing their sound further and further into fun little corners of musical culture and creation. Resulting in an impressively full and cinematic album, Paradigmes is a success story for a band simply making whatever they want and trusting their experimental expression.

Paradigmes arrives 2 April.

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Photo: Press