Line-up: Flavien Berger (synths, programming, etc)
Sounds like: An analogue toboggan sledding down an electro mountain into a digital sea
Current Release: Contre-temps is out now via Pan European Recordings
To help further the cause of up and coming new progressive music, each week we'll be bringing you one of the current issue's Limelight acts, complete with music to listen to. Remember, today's progressive music comes in all manner of guises, and it's important to support the grass roots of prog...
Computer games can rot your brain if you play them too much, but try telling that to Flavien Berger. The Paris-born musician has the Playstation – the Sony gaming console that’s sapped millions of Earth years and zapped billions of brain cells – to thank for his interest in writing songs. “I started out making music on my PlayStation,” he says, “on a game called Music 2000. By playing the game, I started making music. Soon I realised that I was composing.”
Flavien’s autodidactic explorations became more serious with time, as did his interest in music-making machines, but it was a decade before he plucked up the courage to play anything to his friends. Initially he began scoring soundtracks for short films, a sideline that has kept him busy since 2012. But with the release of his first album Léviathan in 2015 and his second album Contre-temps that arrived late last year, Berger has grown from cult concern into a cover star for French weeklies like Les Inrocks.
“I didn’t really want to release my stuff,” he says. “I brought out my first album four years ago and I’m 32 now, so releasing music has been something I’ve come to late.”
Berger is a humble soul who makes his career sound like a hobby, but evidence is to the contrary. He’s becoming a star in France, and across Europe too, and he’s still worshipped by cool underground papers like Gonzaï. It’s easy to see why. He’s a blue-eyed musical maverick with flowing Viking locks and a well maintained Bavarian moustache. More importantly, Contre-temps is a touched double player that throws up variegated splashes of genius, full of dreamy sonic experiments. Berger also peddles a fine line in space bossa nova. He’s not quite as well-known in the UK, but he recently packed out the Village Underground with a swinging crowd of international hipsters and white-trousered sophisticates.
The titular //Contre-temps//, which like the rest of his work oozes with //jeux de mots//, is a 14-minute title track recorded with avant garde R&B chanteuse Bonnie Banane, one of the most interesting artists working in France today. Together they traverse a trippy landscape that’s one part D’Angelo, one part Brigitte Fontaine. “My plan was to make a psychedelic R&B song,” says Berger, “which doesn’t really exist. Psychedelic R&B isn’t really a genre, so I wanted to try it.”
Contre-temps is a labyrinthine world that only really gives up its secrets with repeat visits, though there are pop moments like Brutalisme and Maddy La Nuit to try to ease you in. When Prog suggests that the record might be difficult to get into at first, Berger sounds a little offended. “It’s not my job to sell my music, my job is to make it,” he states. “As for how accessible it is? I think what I did on this record was more pop than my debut. Simpler structures and uncomplicated words. I didn’t do it to sell records or be on the radio, I did it because we are surrounded by pop and I wanted to know what I could do with it.” Contre-temps is a pop sui generis, and its author has achieved the impossible by showing gamers how to lead full and interesting lives.