Seclusion, hermeticism and anonymity seem almost natural courses for artists to take, though such obfuscation rarely lasts. Whether in spite of the artists’ intentions, or for merely pragmatic purposes, proper names have a way of seeping out. Though attention to early EPs from the French sextet La Femme has come with the hushed reverence of mystery accompanying it, their debut LP, Psycho Tropical Berlin comes unveiled allowing the songs rather than a nebulously defined narrative to do the talking.
But La Femme’s obtuseness never seemed a crutch like it did so many of their mask-bearing peers. Even on early efforts, principal songwriters Marlon Magnée and Sacha Got were more geared toward their songcraft than creating a compelling storyline. Tracks like “Sur La Planche” from 2011’s Le Podium #1 made like Stereolab covering “Monster Mash,” — a bass heavy take on the immortal cheap organ sonics of Scooby Doo chase scene music. Even as recently as April of 2012, a Guardian profile noted La Femme wasn’t telling who their lineup was, but both then and now, their enigmatic nature was the least interesting thing about them.
On Psycho Tropical Berlin, the French songwriting duo channels ’60s surf rock sonics on one song, Broadcast on the next, Bis on another. They allow the best of the worlds of underground pop to coalesce onto one sprawling, if disjointed record. The cyclical keyboards of “It’s Time To Wake Up (2023)” spill haphazardly into the airy opening of “Nous Ãtions Deux,” before the latter breaks back into rumbling krautpop. Perhaps it’s the language barrier between myself and La Femme’s rotating cast of vocalists that makes the record feel a little disjointed, but even so, they’ve emerged from the mystery that surrounded the string of EPs that jump-started their career. And even though the veil has dropped on a schizophrenic effort, the strength of these songs should keep La Femme from slinking back into the shadows.
Essential Tracks: “It’s Time To Wake Up (2023)”, ”Nous Ãtions Deux,”