Trans Musicales 2017: Day One

Trans Musicales

Photo by Justin Wilmore

The KEXP road crew and I left Seattle last Sunday to head back to France for our second year filming bands at the 39th annual Trans Musicales music festival in Rennes, France. We had such an amazing time last year capturing video from 12 bands, all of which you can check out here. The spirit of Trans Musicales is so in line with KEXP’s mission, finding new and up-and-coming bands that are putting out some of the best music in the world and to share them with music lovers everywhere. Needless to say, we had a great time pouring over this year’s festival line-up the last few months and working with our awesome Trans Musicales liaison, Jeremy Méléard, to get our top picks booked to film in various locations around Rennes. With 13 bands booked to film over four days during Trans 2017, we packed our gear and headed to France. This time we were able to take a couple of days in Paris to do a little sightseeing and meeting up with our friend Pinar, who we met at the festival last year. We made sure to walk around together all wearing our KEXP hats to do some guerilla marketing.  

KEXP Hats on the Seine

Floating down the river Seine in Paris with KEXP Beanies // photo by Matt Ogaz

Last night we made it to Rennes, got a good night sleep, then woke up early this morning to set up at the first of two locations that we’ll be filming at for the next four days. Our first venue is the Halle de la Courouze, which stands at the entrance of Rennes, formerly as its military arsenal in the 19th century, then got a full renovation in 2016 and was converted into a multi-purpose event space. With one full wall of windows looking outside, and lots of big open space inside, it’s a really great place for filming.

Halle de la Courouze

Halle de La Courouze – Rennes, France

Our first band of the day was UK collective, Superorganism, who have been playing together for 11 months – January 6th, 2017 to be exact as 17 year old frontwoman, Orono, quickly told me. Six of the seven members used to be in a different project based in New Zealand and Orono, who is from Japan but goes to school in Maine in the US, found their music online and became a fan. When she was back home in Japan, she was able to see them play when they toured through and they all quickly became friends, and soon formed Superorganism. By mid-January they began releasing songs, including their first single “Something For Your M.I.N.D.” and were signed to Domino Records not long after that. Their debut self-titled album will be out in March, then they will hit the road touring through 2018. I have a feeling you’ll be hearing a lot more from Superorganism, who seem very adept at writing some seriously catchy electro-pop bangers. Definitely check back soon for the video of their performance!

Superorganism

The singing section of Superorganism // photo by Justin Wilmore

Superorganism

Superorganism // photo by Justin Wilmore

Next up was the psych-electro-trance sounds of Cosmic Project. Recently a trio with the addition of a drummer, the main members Yanlo (keyboards/synths) and Boxuan (sitar) met in Germany, although both are from Beijing, China. Yanlo is a visual artist as well as a musician (“a synth freak” their manager Lua told me), whose work has just been put on exhibition in China, was in Germany seeking out painting materials when he met Boxuan, who is a classically trained musician of traditional Chinese instruments and composer for Chinese theater pieces. Boxuan was interested in putting together a project where he could use the sitar in a more experimental way and Cosmic Project was born. From it comes a hypnotic use of sampling, looping, with intertwining sitar and krautrock-esque beats. They are currently working on a full-length record, but in the meantime, you’ll be able to hear them when the video gets posted. 

Cosmic Project

Cosmic Project // photo by Justin Wilmore

Cosmic Project

Cosmic Project // photo by Justin Wilmore

Cosmic Project

Cosmic Project // photo by Justin Wilmore

After lunch, we had London-based Italian trio Husky Loops. They established themselves in their local scene in and around Pesaro, Italy (the same city as the band Soviet Soviet) then moved to London in order to challenge themselves musically, be in a larger music community and have more opportunities to grow as a band. They have a unique sound for a band that one would generally call rock and that probably comes from the fact that they have a love of hip hop and are inspired by the use of sampling. Singer/guitarist Pier Danio Forni explained that they like the idea of samples not as a backing track, but used as a separate instrument, and only use samples that they can’t recreate themselves live like classical music and snippets from television. They use interchanging time signatures and grooving basslines, unique guitar effects and quick vocal energy shifts, all the while maintaining cohesive songs. Their second of two untitled EPs just came out in early October on vinyl only and are considering combining their first now-out-of-print EP and the new second into a full-length record. They have been touring steadily the last year, joining the bills of bands like Spoon and Placebo, and are about to headline their own UK tour. Here’s hoping they make it to the US soon!

Husky Loops

Husky Loops // photo by Justin Wilmore

Husky Loops

photo by Justin Wilmore

Our last performance of the day was from Brighton, UK based band Lakuta, which began as a large collective of like-minded musicians who play tropicalia and afro-beat. Founded by Cicely Taylor, the collective peaked at a whopping 17 members, 7 of which at one time were horn players and another 7 of which were vocalists. As they played, now-lead-singer Siggy shown through as primary vocalist and they whittled down to the 9 piece they are today consisting of 3 horns, drums, congas, kora, guitar, bass, and vocals, honing in to make their first crowdfunded record under the moniker Kalakuta, named for the republic musician and political activist Fela Kuti gave to the communal compound that housed his family, band members, and recording studio. They ended up shortening their band name to Lakuta for their latest record, Brothers and Sisters, which came out in August 2016. Lakuta played a joyous set of relevantly-themed afrobeat. They brought warmth to a very cold winter day and was a lovely way to cap off the first day at Trans Musicales.

Lakuta

Siggy of Lakuta // photo by Justin Wilmore

Lakuta

Lakuta // photo by Justin Wilmore

I’ll check back in with you tomorrow for another set of live performances from the 2017 Trans Musicales Fest! À bientôt!

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