In terms of the history of the Paris Underground, names don’t get any more influential than Fulgence, a Frenchman born in 1852.
Fulgence Bienvenue was the industrialist who created the Paris Metro in 1900, plumbing the darkest and deepest depths of French soil to unearth his own vision of the future. Yet his underground credentials are now under threat by a post millennium upstart. Boff! A mere 108 years after the first underground wheel rolled, there’s a new Fulgeance forging his own underground network; except this one is throwing up massive sick, off-kilter beats such as Fulgeance’s may have found a new name. As musical commentators struggle to come up with a term to describe the spiralling instrumental beats swaying into vogue, distinct by their clipped lack of cohesion, flagrant disregard for conventional time signatures and satellite beats straying far from their usual outposts, Fulgeance’s ‘Low Club EP’ seems to have grabbed a handle on one of modern music’s most slippery beasts.
Born simply Pierre troel, he inherited the name of Monsieur Metro via the conventional route of his best friend. “It was a nickname my friend Pierre - aKa Rekick -gave me in a headache after a party,” explains the twenty-eight year-old, “because the clock woke us up with a bad song singing about Fulgence Bienvenue, so my good friend Pierre never stopped calling me Fulgence, then all my friends called me Fulgence. So I added an ‘a’ and it’s stuck.” not one to hang about, Pierre may have coined his own genre for his productions: “I just invented the word ‘low club’ for my style to show that people can dance on beats less than 110BPM! I could say my style is smartbanggin’ too. I’m just signing on a label called One handed an EP called ‘Smartbanggin’ EP’, so it makes sense. I think we are many to help that kind of new hip-hop movement. Dorian Concept, architeq, 1000names, Lilea narrative, Débruit, hudson Mohawke or Flying Lotus are really makin’ it grow too.”
Thus, in the same mode as reggae became coined so casually by toots Maytal when he offhandedly quipped in 1968 ‘Do the Reggay’, the new breed of sonic structures, vaulted bass forms and almost bottomless bangers of slick, slow French club hip-hop. Fans of Dabrye, Flying Lotus and hype mongers of Hudson Mohawke et al sit up. This dude is gonna cruise your drives big time.
As for his back history, predictably Pierre has always loved music. Having failed as a bassist in various adolescent funk bands, he turned his attentions to DJing. With his friend Rekick and Cloud in Bazouka Crew, he spanned house and funky backdrops before becoming engrossed in machine music a decade ago. Over the last few years Pierre started hooking up two akai MPC 2000 drum machines and trying to follow his idols such as Dabrye, Madlib, Prefuse73, ammon Contact, Cymande and Jamie Lidell into shaping experimental hip-hop.
Taking his cue from Lidell’s incredible and improvised stage shows, the Fulgeance live experience is livid and boisterous as he cuts between his two digital steeds, a set-up surprisingly rarely seen. “You know everybody loves that,” he enthuses, “because it’s more visual. People understand what you do, so they get involved a little more into the live set. I played in Detroit, the hip-hop and techno place, and there was the place to prove it, because everybody knows there the MPC. I’ve seen producers or musicians rocking it just with a CD player, like Busdriver; maybe that’s because he raps like a king. But you have to be really reactive to your music, into it and into the crowd at the same time. But yeah, I can say I don’t have fun when I just see an apple (logo) in front of me. hardware is the key. I think artists have to give the best of them to really be alive on stage.”
Perhaps Fulgeance’s most captivating trick, however, isn’t borne from jumping about like a child on mescaline. It’s the fact that his music perfectly straddles high-end iPod head-nodding territory of complex arrangements with what he describes as “dumb” club music. Making music that’s primal enough to carry a club floor whilst being down tempo and cerebral is tremendously hard. Yet this is what will mark him from his wonked-up and wigged-out peers.
Pierre rounds off with one eye on the dance floor: “I think club music just uses the primary things: beat, bass, voices. and there is always kind of cliché in it. today it’s distortion on the elements to be more rock; tomorrow it will be booty because people, more in France, just discover it so it could be more original, inventive, surprising. You can make dance people with what you want if you use it your way... and with a touch of good feeling.”