I often wish I could experience the world at the time of my birth. Pre 9/11. In the middle of the dot-com bubble that brought many, like my own parents, out from around the world into the madness of Silicon Valley. Partaking in the events of Elizabeth Goodman’s “Meet Me in the Bathroom,” a recounting of the nascent rock revival in NYC spearheaded by the likes of Interpol and The Strokes. And on a different note, I wish I could be in the middle of the briefest of musical movements, one that could maybe be best described as a slightly more earnest musical equivalent of another classic of the time, “Zoolander.” 

Two tracks form a great introduction to the raunchy world of electroclash: “1982” by Miss Kittin and The Hacker and “Happy Hour” by Felix da Housecat. Hailing from Grenoble in the south-east of France, Caroline Hervé (Miss Kittin) and Michel Amato (The Hacker) are some of the genre’s most prolific producers, and “1982,” off their first full-length album (aptly titled First Album) laid its blueprint. The instrumental is your average, if not slightly simpler than average, electro beat with all its hallmarks, such as punchy snares and angular synth riffs. Miss Kittin’s vocals transform the track into electroclash, as she sings, or rather flatly monotones “Let’s go to the rendez-vous Of the past, me and you DJ, plays deja-vu As we were in ’82.” On the other hand, Felix da Housecat was one of the movement’s few American producers. Raised on a diet of the emergent Chicago house scene in the mid 1980s, he was a protégé of notable producer DJ Pierre and mostly produced in a similar mold for most of the 1990s. In 2001, he released “Kittenz and the Glitz,” an album that mixed his love of Chicago House and a combination of electro and 80’s synth-pop and even featured Miss Kittin. On “Happy Hour,” vocalist Melistar, in a similar monotone with a “continental” accent to Miss Kittin, sings “Leave my life I’d seen the crowds Try to deal with city crowds Work all day, go out night Next … international flight.”

If anything, these tracks are on the tamer side of electroclash, a style which could, and often did, devolve into a level of raunch that would make you want to take a shower after a listen. They also avoid the maximalism of tracks like those of another Frenchman, Vitalic (in particular, his “Poney, Pt. 1”), which could easily soundtrack any poorly CGI’d turn-of-the-century futuristic action thriller. Yet what all these seem to share was a somewhat naïve, painfully earnest and rather endearing vision of the future. It’s hard to imagine a genre like electroclash existing and flourishing at any other time period. In that way, it serves as an interesting historical artifact. While my own perception of the era might be hopelessly misguided, it tells me that it was a time period of optimism about the rapid change of the newly-interconnected world and the possibility that its brand of hyper-capitalism would bring people closer to the lifestyles they so hoped for.

Daily Arts Columnist Sayan Ghosh can be reached at sayghosh@umich.edu.

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