sex as a foreign language

awkward aural adventures

Nelson – Le Nouvelle Vague

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This article originally appeared on Subba Cultcha.

Nelson stumble out of the east London Café with the air of chic Parisian cool you might expect, a collection of sharp fashions, sharper cheekbones and unkempt hair. A collection of 20 something music producers, Nelson came together in order to combat the dearth of intelligent French indie in the wake of the US/UK invasion circa the Strokes et al by fusing the deathly hallow cool of Joy Division to the electro pulses and dance beats more often associated by French dance giants Daft Punk or Cassius. Not content with simply operating as a band they launched a club night to offer young Paris somewhere to get down to a cross of alternative godheads Sonic Youth and the cowbell toting antics of The Rapture…naturally, just as everybody who saw the first Sex Pistols gig (yes including that ginger wanker Hucknal) is rumoured to have done, those who attended went away to form their own bands who were produced by and shared bills with Nelson, setting them up as the fathers of an entire new ‘Nouvelle Vague’ movement in French music.


The arrival of the movement was heralded by the 2007 compilation ‘Paris Calling’ which exposed the likes of Brooklyn, Second Sex, Dodos and Plasticine to a receptive audience outside of France. Perhaps most exciting of all aspects of this movement is that the talents being exposed are quite so young, getting a pint between them in a London pub might require the application of a shiny fake ID. Finally following the release of two singles the band have released their debut album ‘Revolving Doors’ in the UK, a mix of My Bloody Valentine guitars, post punk angles of PiL and frantic disco beats. It’s an exciting debut that should manage to propel the band past the ‘French Interpol’ tags and into the hearts and playlists of British fans. That said, it might take a full tour or two to drum into people that despite the New Order electronics and loops Nelson are in essence a guitar driven band. “We’ve had a lot of response actually, really positive to the single we’ve just released, The Over Song, although most of it is about the remixes, which is interesting. People love our remixes and make a comment about the remixes but not so much about the single,” they say as we dive through Spitalfields market, noting the difficulties they face in breaking out of the shadow of Frances immense dance movement. “I think it’s because there’s a club culture over here that we just don’t have, so it’s very interesting for us,” they add. That they are the only rock band signed to the legendary dance label Diamond Trax that Daft Punk help run, nor the bands love of DJ sets will make the distinction harder but anyone witnessing the band live will soon realise that Nelson are more about the stage that the booth.

So what is happening in Paris right now? “Well we’re coming to the end of, well I wouldn’t even say a rock and roll renewal because there hasn’t ever been a rock and roll scene before, so we have the first proper French indie rock scene which is there, then of course there is the electro scene with Justice and Ed Banger which you really can’t get away from. It’s growing but the size of a French indie scene is just a fraction of the UK or the US scene, there is an audience but it’s still small.” In terms of their own sound Nelson are keen to break down boundaries and act as a melting pot for their various musical backgrounds, yet there are some definitive common threads. “The four of us have very different musical backgrounds in general and our music is supposed to be a mixture of all our influences, individually as well as in terms of a band, because since we met we’ve been sharing our influences, sharing books and movies and music. When we met years ago we all discovered Joy Division together, we knew them vaguely before, but we all discovered them together and that seemed to mark a change in what happened when we came to make music together. So we discovered Joy Division and it was, “wow this is dark and minimalist and great…less is more, faster but slower…so that has definitely tainted the first album,” they state chuckling at their best 24hr Party People impressions. “Now we’re moving on and there’s a lot of electro and minimal electro, Animal Collective and bands like that. The National, we’re very big fans of The National.” Big enough fans to employ their sound engineer, “we all met in a sound recording school so the recording was easy…it doesn’t create too many problems where there is this, ‘man I can’t get that guitar sound just right’, because we know those myths too, about too many producers, so we try to be careful. But we work with our sound engineer, Julien, who is such a talented guy and, as far as I am concerned, has such groundbreaking ideas on the conception of sound, and we really clicked with him. He’s done a single for The National and is working a lot at the moment with a band called Narrow Terrence.” It might be no surprise that the recording process was less than arduous as contrary to what you might expect from the purveyors of the ‘Nouvelle vague’ French dark electro rock movement they recorded in the sun drenched French Riviera. “We all worked hard on this album and it was great, I think the hardest part of the album was actually the heat in the south of France!” They chuckle.


‘Revolving Doors’ is a calling card album that alludes to greater things to come from the heart of Paris and Nelson are a name well worth watching from across the channel. They will return later in the year, variously as DJs and live to continue the development of cross channel co-operation. You’d be well advised to dust off that phrase book in preparation.



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