11:44 AM GMT 21/05/2013
Christmas weather in Rennes - Brittany's capital - is cold, wet and windy, and boozy is the default setting for the tens of thousands who flock to Trans Musicales' out-of-town aerodrome home and the city-centre bars and restaurant that provide venues for the parallel Bars En Trans festival.
The shindig's left-field reputation survives the buffetting, however - doubly so at a lecture dedicated to Le Souffle Libertaire Du Rock Allemand (Krautrock to you and me) by French writer Pascal Bussy. Even so, taking a seat during the mid afternoon in a lecture theatre at the city centre Champs Libre conference centre seems decidedly unfestival-y. In his 90 minutes, Bussy covers the origins, development and trajectory of Krautrock, pinpointing the motorik rhythms ("le batteur métronome") and namechecking MOJO's Kraut-simpatico News Editor Ian Harrison (who wrote this year's Can Tapes liner notes). The lecture is rounded out by a crushing, powerful set by Berlin trio Camera, whose pieces - these aren't songs - begin like early Tangerine Dream, then morph into densely Neu-like workouts and end up as Space Ritual Hawkwind. If only all conferences were this freaksome.
Tackling Trans Musicales and Bars En Trans as a whole requires something akin to Bussy's academic rigour, with something like 186 different acts from the US, Canada, Denmark, Spain, the UK and, of course, France spread over the three days. The best survival policy is to make a plan and stick to it. Rigidly. Things will be missed, but any deviation is likely to bring on an attack of confusion so profound that it's subsequently impossible to pick up the threads.
Thankfully, some bands are easier to assimilate than others. Out in the sheds of the Parc Expo - the aforementioned aerodrome - the hypnagogic Michael Jackson pop of America's Phoebe Jean + The Air Force does the business as Ms Jean continually bounces, waving her arms in the air. The audience do likewise. It's much the same with Ondatrópica, the collective featuring Quantic and Colombia's Mario Galeano. Their driving, electro-Latin groove is made for large audiences and the big-band approach doesn't fail to have its effect.
More curious is Rachid Taha's version of It's Now Or Never which causes the 6000 shed-occupants to stop dead and scratch their heads. His Should I Stay Or Should I Go - assisted by The Clash's Mick Jones - is no less of a non-sequiteur, but a hell of a lot more fun.
Back in town, France's Clockwork Of The Moon whizz Fleet Foxes and Grizzly Bear in a blender while, in tiny restaurant Le Scaramouche, MGMT-ish electropop trio Total Warr take on The Pixies's Where Is My Mind? In the same venue, local singer Florian Mona keeps it closer to home, revivifying French archetypes with mumbly Gainsbourg vocals and compositions rooted in Chanson Française.
Amongst the heaps of international, mix-and-match pop, one show stands out. Making her French debut, London's Lianne la Havas shines. Seemingly, touchingly, delighted to be here, her simple, soulful pop makes an instant connection and her conversational rapport with the audience helps too. "I'll see you in the future, I hope," she concludes. "Look out for my name, Lianne la Havas".
And that's the point: a fortnight later, it's her name that lingers, not the names of any number of influences. Lianne la Havas showed Rennes that it's OK to be yourself.
by Kieron Tyler
Photo: Nicolas Joubard
Posted by Ross_Bennett at 11:21 AM GMT 20/12/2012