NO ONE IN his or her right mind will ever accuse Paris-born, London-based electronic musician and DJ Jacques Lu Cont, a.k.a. Les Rhythmes Digitales, of being subtle. This is a guy whose best song is entitled "Jacques Your Body (Make Me Sweat)." And the laughs don't end there: Les Rhythmes Digitales' new album, Darkdancer (Wall of Sound/Astralwerks), is a waggish refutation of the techno vanguard's often death-mask seriousness. The record is, in fact, so in-your-face silly it's easy to wonder whether Lu Cont is serious or not.
Les Rhythmes Digitales
ARO.space, Thursday, November 4
He is. "I've got a lot of respect for a purist attitude," Lu Cont says via cell phone as he drives north across the English countryside from his south London home. "It takes a lot of passion to stay working within a certain circle. I just don't have time for it. I think that kind of elitist attitude is bullshit—like the kid at school who has all the cool new records but won't tell anybody what they are."
Indeed, it's highly unlikely that brazen party-starters like "(Hey You) What's That Sound?" and "Jacques Your Body" will ever be mistaken for Surgeon outtakes: They brim with a mirthful ease that helps their goofy hooks go down smoothly. Occasionally they go down a little too smoothly—Darkdancer's early '80s kitsch redux can feel empty, even smarmy, with the lube-coated fusion bass lines of "Music Makes You Lose Control" and the godawful histrionics of vocalist Thomas Ribeiro on "Soft Machine" and "Damaged People" serving mainly to make you glad the '80s are over. (Ribeiro sounds like he got kicked out of Loverboy for sounding too much like an early '80s AOR jerkoff.) But when Lu Cont stays in the present tense, he jokes but doesn't play around: The man has a serious knack for woozy, insistent post-house stomps like "Hypnotise" and "MDC Vendredi."
More than his own material, though, Les Rhythmes Digitales' strong suit is its remixes. Lu Cont's dynamic reworking of Whirlpool Productions' "From: Disco to: Disco" is included on Darkdancer, and it turns the original—a strange, sensual, lo-fi track whose off-key vocals and narcotic groove recall Loose Joints' stark disco classic of 1980, "Is It All Over My Face"—into a markedly post-disco groove, Texas Instruments' talking dictionary jammin' on the one. LRD's masterpiece, however, is probably his treatment of Deejay Punk-Roc's "My Beatbox" (available on Astralwerks' recent compilation Paris Is Sleeping, Respect Is Burning Vol. 2), a heavy, stomping beast of a track that stands up with any club track of the past few years for nonstop, monolithic thrills.
It's tracks like these that Lu Cont drops into his DJ sets, along with a selection of his influences. "I play everything from [electro pioneers] Newcleus and Man Parrish to French house like Daft Punk and [Paris record label] Roule stuff to New Order and the Human League," he says. "I think there's so many parallels between those styles—they sit very well together. People who understand one can easily understand the other. I think a bad DJ is one who plays records they aren't really feeling, because ultimately I think DJing is about what makes you tick. The best example is someone like Fatboy Slim—you can tell what kind of guy he is, the records he plays reflect his personality. Some people like to treat DJing as an education for people—it should be half that and half playing to an audience."
Though he enjoys spinning records (I spoke with Lu Cont as he was in transit to a gig at a Sheffield nightclub called NY Sushi), he considers it "secondary to playing live, and third to producing music." Live, Les Rhythmes Digitales expands to include a guitarist/keyboardist and an electronic percussionist, and Lu Cont adamantly points out "we play live. I really identify with rock bands, because I want to capture that same excitement, to carry that of-the-moment feeling into dance music.
"Live, a lot of electronic music tends to be guys bobbing behind a mixing desk. The nice thing about playing live is that there's an element of surprise: People might have certain expectations of what it's going to be like. So when they see us play instruments and recreate it live, it kind of throws people. We're also having a lot of fun—there's a lot of audience interaction, which is something that's not particularly emphasized in electronic music."