by Su Baykal
About four years ago, French youth, looking for a place to escape from the everyday, began throwing parties in abandoned warehouses, playing electronic dance music. The first parties to gain traction were hosted by organizations like Fee Croquer, Contrast, and New’s Cool. Gradually, these parties became more popular, attracting bigger crowds and planting the seeds for what would become a full-on rave revival in France. Rave’s genre borders are somewhat porous—the term can also refer to acid house, acid techno, hardtechno, hardstyle, gabber—but what they all have in common is their unpolished sound, chaotic style and tempo that usually stays well above 130 BPM.
Appearing first in the U.K. in the mid-to-late ‘80s, rave first made its way to France in the early ’90s. Empty theaters and warehouses hosted parties that attracted hundreds of young people. Umwelt, a techno producer and DJ who was playing at the first raves in Lyon, France, in the early ‘90s, remembers its earliest days. “It arrived in Paris in 1990. The first party was thrown by the ‘Rave Age’ Krew, and on radio with Maxximum. Back then, no one was famous. Then, everything started becoming more professional. Today, a new generation wants to get out of all that. This ‘90s sound is coming back. People want sincerity—they’re a little more open now, they want to return to the source. The music is more original today, more roots, harder productions compared to the ‘00s. There are more brute sounds now. It’s darker.”
Today, a community of producers are both reviving and adding new perspectives to the classic sound of rave. According to producer duo Minimum Syndicat, “The movement is bigger now than it was in the ’90s—at least in France.” The community is also tight-knit; artists remix one another’s tracks, release albums on one another’s labels, and share bills at parties. For all its new energy, the scene does still have some growing to do. For one thing, it remains largely male-dominated. As producer Sentimental Rave explains, “You don’t find a lot of women [playing at raves] in France. People are surprised when I play—they don’t expect it.”
While France may not be the only place experiencing a resurgence in rave culture, Sentimental Rave explains that French productions often are “more delicate. The raves are more melodic and slower—more subtle.”
While the producers in this list are just a small sample of the rave-inspired music being made in France today, they all offer a clear representation of the new sound’s darker sound. Their music spans a wide range of genres, from hard and acid techno, to gabber and hardcore, to something called frapcore. This is the sound of French rave today.