For the past 7 years Dark Entries has been reissuing oddball out of print post-punk and new wave records. These have tended towards bands and artists emerging from the first big explosion of experimentation with synthesizers and drum machines from the early 80s. Philippe Chany slots in comfortably on the new-wave side of Dark Entries’ catalogue. The French musician’s work ranges from Disco to film soundtracks and both of these styles are evident on Rive Gauche, originally released by Polydor in 1983.
The LP is a reasonably adventurous collection of 8 tracks. Switching frequently between a Roland 808 and live drums. Chany covers a lot of bases and never sounds out of his depth doing so. His approach to blending genres sits somewhere between Grace Jones and Talking Heads, frequently channeling the grandiose dramatics of the former and the agitated funk of the latter. It’s this willingness to play with pop formats that stops this reissue from sounding stale 33 years after its original release. The dark funk strut of “Fiction” is a particular highlight. Elsewhere Philippe Chany’s work as a soundtrack composer is evident. “Castor” one of the few instrumentals on the album, would not sound out of place on the Blade Runner soundtrack.
Like many albums released before the advent of CDs, Rive Gauche doesn’t overstay it’s welcome. It’s concise and all 8 track are cohesive stylistically, without ever becoming grating or repetitive. Chany doesn’t do too much wrong on this album, but there is also nothing altogether brilliant. Comparisons to Grace Jone and Talking Heads may be a little grandiose, as no track could stand with their best. Some of the LPs experiments simply don’t work. The cover of Dave Brubeck Quartet’s “Unsquare Dance” is amusing as a novelty, but very clunky compared to the original.
I might recommend Rive Gauche to serial record collectors, particularly those curious about the evolution of pop music. Philippe Chany is clearly a talented musician, unafraid to play genres and experiment with new equipment. And while the worst is far from bad, the album’s best is far from brilliant. I’m pleased I had the opportunity to listen, but it would be no great tragedy had it been overlooked by Dark Entries and largely forgotten.