Trans Musicales De Rennes 2012: Day 1

Our intrepid reporter ventures out to Rennes in France, for one of the most exciting festivals in Europe: Trans Musicales 2012. Highlights from day one include Team Ghost, Madeon and Netsky

Feature by Bram E. Gieben | 07 Dec 2012

Trans Musicales de Rennes is a veteran of the festival scene -  established in 1979 by maverick promoter Jean-Louis Broussard and Beatrice Mace, it has played host to countless breakout acts over the years, from Cabarte Voltaire in '83, The Sugarcubes in '88, DJ Shadow in '95, and more recently, the likes of Diplo and Crookers in '08. Broussard's festival has a reputation for finding and celebrating the 'next big thing' in music, and the 2012 festival is no exception. With a lineup that features a plethora of up-and-coming and established French artists, alongside international talent from the US, Canada, South Africa and the UK, playing at venues across town, and in a series of converted airport hangars on the edge of the city.

The afternoon starts out with a set from sincere French folk-rockers Clockwork of the Moon. Dressed in a range of hippy-style cheesecloth shirts and cords, they come across like a psychedelic Mumford & Sons, all heartfelt crooning, bucolic melodies and inexplicably tiny guitars. Their singer, who bears a striking resemblance to Toploader's Joe Washbourn, has a strong voice, with echoes of Richard Ashcroft. It's all a bit overly-earnest, although the crowd greet the band warmly.

Bow Low follow on - their press shot thrillingly suggests that they might be some sort of hardcore punk band - their faces covered, in harsh sunlight, they glare menacingly at the camera. But no - their sound could perhaps best be characterised as generic indie rock with a bouncy punk energy. They have a tough, jaunty swagger in their rhythm section, and a lead guitarist who elevates them above their fairly trad songs. There are hints of '90s indie, and one song featuring the refrain "Watch your step" which could easily become a Kaiser Chiefs-like terrace anthem. Don't be surprised if you hear their music behind a Match of the Day goals montage one day.

A Berlin-based trio of math-rock experimentalists, Camera, currently signed to Bureau B, make an absolutely glorious racket. Playing on the main stage, their tough, sinewy, instrumental krautrock jams sound thrillingly huge. Tight, interlocking drum patterns, pulsing synths and guitar lines that run from urgent, propulsive riffs to reverb-soaked screeds of feedback and noise have the crowd captivated. The band are acutely aware of each other, despite playing with their heads down, lost in the groove: the guitar drops down a notch for a synth-led interlude with shades of Tangerine Dream, and then the synth drifts back in the mix for a metal-influenced five minute grind. The drummer stands front and center, hammering away like a young Rudolf Moser. It's powerful stuff - no wonder Camera have gained recognition from the likes of Michael Rother and Dieter Moebius.

Paris-based shoegazers Team Ghost are greeted like conquering heroes - small wonder, as the band has evolved in leaps and bounds since 2011's rather excellent We All Shine, accomodating the dazzling analogue synth textures of newest member Benoit de Villeneuve, who also doubles up as a guitarist and vocalist. Formed in 2009 by Nicolas Fromageau, formerly one half of M83, and Christophe Guerrin, they now seem like a band ready to conquer the world. Swathes of cathedral-like, FX-drenched guitars anchor them in the oh-so-hot-right-now territory of My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive, but every song has a perfect pop core. Flashes of Pixies-esque driving bass and towering synth lines send the whole thing stratospheric, and as Benoit launches into the vocal for latest single Dead Film Star, the crowd go absolutely wild. Their fothcoming album Rituals, due out in February, promises fireworks. Speaking to the band earlier, Fromageau describes Team Ghost as finally being a "real band," with a five-man lineup. He discussed the wealth of juicy analogue synth equipment available to them via de Villeneuve's studio. They have recorded all of Rituals live to tape, and describe it as "the sound of cities at night." Tonight's sublimely confident performance is an exuberant showcase of their epically heavy pop sound.

Synth-funk band Burning House are greeted enthusiastically by the crowd on the main stage - small wonder, as they essentially have the keys to George Clinton's funk Mothership, and are taking it for a joyride with turntables, synth, guitar, and one gigantic baritone sax. The mostly instrumental licks are perfect booty-shaking material, but when they add frantic, yelping vocals into the mix, the whole thing gets even more enjoyable, as the band call out a mantra which sounds remarkably like "Ghost party! Sex disorder!" Finishing with a slinky, vocoder-assisted disco jam, Burning House get ten out of ten for giving people what they want. Tight and professional, with real charm, it's pointless berating them for a lack of originality. Quite simply, they got the funk.

A brief encounter with Californian rhythm-and-blues merchant Nick Waterhouse is enough - his Dad-friendly Van Morrison-alike ditties definitely sseem to be entertaining the crowd, and his band are undeniably tight, with a horn section parping away agreeably. As pedal steel guitar drifts across the busy hall, creating an almost country and western vibe, this reporter beats a hasty retreat, before Waterhouse breaks out the banjo.

Like Burning House, French electro superstar Madeon is a crowd-pleaser. Owing pretty much everything to Daft Punk, his somewhat air-brained electronic pop is undeniably stadium-filling and infectious, but as he frugs away in front of a giant wall of fairground visuals, you can't quite help but feel like you've been trapped inside some giant version of popular fairground attraction the Waltzers. There's plenty of screaming, but madeon refuses to go faster than his standard 135bpm, four-four pace. As asinine, X-Factor-style vocals wail out of the speakers, your humble reviewer abandons this mini-Guetta for a briefn stint in the mercifully chilled-out Salon du The, no doubt showing his age.

The night culminates in a barnstorming performance from Hospital Records' liquid drum and bass phenom Netsky, who absolutely brings the house down with a far-ranging (if somewhat commercial) take on bass music of all stripes, varying the tempo from d 'n' b to dubstep to hip-hop and back again, supported by a drummer, synth-player and an emcee. Speaking about his new live band to The Skinny earlier on in the day, the Belgian wunderkind said: "It's important for me to show that drum and bass can be real music, and can be played by a band." He certainly does that in spades, and the crowd go absolutely buckwild.

With sets from Canadian synth-pop noiseniks Doldrums, cumbia-influenced ensemble Ondatropica and French Techno demigod Vitalic to follow on Friday, and even more treats in store for Saturday and Sunday, Trans Musicales is just getting started. The Skinny will be back tomorrow with another dispatch from the dancefloor!