SPACE: MAGIC FLY
Over the past couple of days I’ve been listening to a 20 track compilation released last month and, as you’ll be able to tell from its less than snappy title, Cosmic Machine: A Voyage Across French Cosmic & Electronic Avantgarde (1970-1980), this isn’t the sort of thing that’ll be troubling too many radio playlists any time soon.
I bet Stereolab love it though.
Defining French Cosmic & Electronic Avantgarde music remains difficult even after hearing the album a number of times.
Temps X by Didier Marouani (mainly known as a member of Space) comes across as Tangerine Dream meets Jean Michel Jarre, while Rene Roussel’s Caramel Is sounds like it might have been recorded in Chicago years later and wouldn’t have sounded out of place on the dancefloor at Shoom during the second summer of love, Universal Energy’s Disco Energy ,on the other hand, could conceivably have come from the soundtrack of a TV cop show set in the mean streets of Paris round about the time when millions of British households were tuning into The Sweeney.
Then there’s a track that was written after the aforementioned Didier Marouani was asked compose a music theme for an astrology related TV show to be shown in France. He decided that synthesizers would be ideal for his idea. He bought one and, within minutes, the hypnotic, futuristic disco of Magic Fly was born, one of the relatively few non punk/new wave chart hits of 1977 I’ve always found intriguing.
This was Disco but I doubt they ever played Magic Fly any time Tony Manero and his buddies were out cutting a rug at 2001 Odyssey and I’m guessing that it wasn’t too big with the Studio 54 brigade either.
In the era of Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Star Wars, what was quickly dubbed ‘Space Disco’ took off in countries such as France and Germany and occasionally made a foray into the British and American charts too.
Think female singers dressed in skimpy silver outfits that nobody at NASA would have ever contemplated designing and men looking like extras from Ed Wood’s Plan 9 From Outer Space, think performances and videos accompanied by some spectacularly silly special effects that must surely have looked dreadfully gimmicky even in the ’70s, think Dee D. Jackson’s Automatic Lover, a hit single produced by Giorgio Moroder and Supernature by Cerrone – surely a huge influence on Daft Punk’s track Giorgio Moroder. Cerrone, incidentally, are represented on Cosmic Machine by Générique (Début).
Space Disco, you won’t be too surprised to learn, wasn’t destined to have a terribly long shelf life, although many of the acts involved moved on in new directions and continued to record.
Here’s another track from Cosmic Machine, my personal fave, Love Machine by Space Art, whose Nous Savons Tout from 1978 could have been classified as Space Disco but who might generally be better described as ‘Cosmic Synth Pop’ if you’re really into categorising your subgenres.
Love Machine came out in 1980 and must have sounded like a breath of fresh air at the time.
Remind you of any French electronic duo of today?