Isabella Antenna – Laying on the Sofa (Discomartin, 2020)

Two wonderfully reworked cuts that showcase a wicked talent from the 80s French Boogie Scene.

Is it just us or is the French Party scene simply thriving at the moment? not just in terms of their fantastic parties, that demostrate some of the best vibes going, but a continual revival of some unbelievable cuts from the 70s and 80s. Disco and boogie from this time in the country is perhaps unfairly distant behind genres like Italo Disco and 80s euro cheese, but underneath for a long period of time there were a series of excellent bands and individuals releasing proper gold, that now we see given new life by a wide array of artists. France benefited from a rich and diverse community, that contributed many brilliant sounds and voices, with a lot of brilliant West African records being recorded and released in the country. Labels such as Favourite Recordings, Bayete, Hot Mule, Hot Casa, Beaumonde, Chuwanaga, and many more have been smashing out superb releases that showcase the depth and diversity of many excellent French artists, and going beyond into Europe and Africa to serve up more brilliant cuts that often fed into the French scene. It feels very much like an almost shared consciousness, one where labels all look to a similar range of records and genres in terms of reissues, thus creating a loving sense of identity that has always been strong anyway within French music. It is perhaps this shared passion that means every release has the backing of others, only reinforcing the notion that the contemporary scene stands up to all the others globally pushing the concepts of honouring musical identity as a means of moving club culture forward.

Another label to add to the list is Parisian Label Discomartin, who since 2014 have been pairing their always well received parities with stellar record releases, that capture the core essence of their curated sound. Their first three releases, Edits 001 – 003, were all superb edit records, delving into the many facets of big synth boogie, soft driving choppy disco, big soaring vocal lines, and everything in between. The series really demonstrated the collectives deep crates, signifying their passion to delve into and explore the murky depths of global disco and boogie. Really do check them all out, there is summery tropical goodness across the board for all styles and tastes! In 2018, the collective released their first full reissue, Diva’s ‘La Nuit’ stomper, a full on heater with vocals and bass lines and keys all working together to create a late night emotional workout. They followed this up with Preface’s ‘Palace Hotel’ in the same year, an equally excellent track that demonstrated a more full band effort, but for sure operating in the same groovy wavelengths as their previous efforts. In 2019, the label reissued Clara Capri’s Italo tinged groover ‘Maundit DJ’, that seemed such a logical flow from their previous efforts, their identity as a collective force now very much cemented. We all just lapped it up, release upon release taken in, grooved to fuck, until the next one. Its all been superb.

And now, we arrived at their latest effort, Isabelle Antena’s ‘Laying on the Sofa’. On this release, we see the title track and the flip, ‘La Tete Contre Les Murs’, both of which are remixes by Mark Kamins and Marc Moulin respectively. Antena had a significant career, with a large amount of LP and EP releases (primarily on Belgium label Les Disques Du Crépuscule) from 1985 through to the present day. Her style very much captures imaginations and burning attention, in that her slow and sultry voice lavishly swells and rides on top of some very fine jazz funk fusion plus boogie. This set of ingredients would set her up well for her entire career, and has seen her lauded in many corners of the music community. So it seems fitting that the Discomatin camp have lovingly reissued this single, originally released in 1987, with the two musical entities seemingly colliding as if on purpose, as if created by some divine being. The two tracks almost present two different sides of emotional turmoil, the ultra groovy gives away to sky high regret and illusions, the funk fusion gives way to reflection where maybe there was nothing to reflect. Aside from the highly considered lyrical and narrative feels, we are treated to some spectacular audio delights, the intricate melodies and on point groove work a breath of fresh air. So, lets dip into it.

We begin things off with the title track, and it all kicks off with the slow paced jam of percussive elements. Before we know it, the smooth as hell vocal line comes into play, ringing true one of the many messages that come across so beautifully within this boogie gem gem. The song moves forward into the chord progressions, floaty, setting the tone, with slick guitar work adding extra dynanism. The lyrics of Antena come striding back into it, playing along so perfectly, setting the scene further. The real essence of this track feels like the various instruments frame her voice so pitch perfect, singing back and forth. Then, as the verse ends, the chorus begins (what else?), and its oh so glorious, gorgeous even, trimuphant even. The way it goes is the guitar work takes leads on the right, the key stabs on the left, the groove placed firmly in the middle. Its so epic, panned and curated to create maximum impact, maximum dance and ultimate emotional injects. Its just so effortless. The verse follows on in the same vein, that provide a wonderful contrast to the fullness of the chorus, the proper hands in the air moment, sexy, seductive, graceful. It lies up high like a cloud revealing behind it the most blue of skies. As the chorus ends once again, we move into the instrumental break, the soft chord stabs interluding with the guitar licks. The placement of keys, guitar with the drumming patterns also just adds to the impeccable nature of it all, like damn. As the break builds, the vocal work comes back into it, as if to deconstruct what made the chorus so special in its feel and just let it ride for as long as possible. Sheer groovy bliss.

To finish up, we have the flip, ‘La Tete Contre Les Murs’. This one begins out more filled out and expansive as the previous, with a greater emphasis placed on building from the bottom in terms of the groove. This creates a beautiful moment when the vocals hit, and they respond in kind and respect with the keys that hit so true underneath. The blend is so brilliant, the layering almost equating to transitions, where various synth lines simply melt into each other. The verses are a proper work out, Antena really showing her full lower range, all in french of course. The choruses become jumpy, filled with playful stabs and lines that elevate and allow for breathing distance between chorus and verse. Its the smoothness that just allows for this track to keep on moving and grooving, a fine example of what the 80s was capable of producing, something that has a deepness to it in terms of sonicness, texture, lyricism, and the art of the groove. What a burner.

Both tracks here emphasis a performer at ease with reading the nature of a room, an environment, or a song, and adding in her layer to create something truly magical. Antena’s vocal work here is very much the focal point, but its the focal point for all the right reasons; the licks, the keys, the beats, all the groove is following her every word, her breath, and the way she goes through the ranges. The two tracks feel whole as a result, together in a way that is rare in terms of how everything just threads together. Discomatin have done it again.

Support the troops:

https://discomatin.bandcamp.com/album/laying-on-the-sofa

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