The KEXP road crew had an amazing time being back in Rennes, France for our fourth year of filming bands at the 41st annual Trans Musicales! Over the last three years, we've filmed 39 bands at 7 different beautiful locations around the city, all of which you can revisit here.
This year we spent the week at one of my favorite locations yet, La Chapelle. Now used as a workspace for an interior design firm, the renovated chapel is part of an approximately 200-year-old building that used to be the site of a hospital. The rest of the original building has been changed and converted into various living and working spaces, but the chapel remains with beautiful stained glass and high ceilings. The floor, ceiling, and walls of the building were bright white except for the floor, which had been recently painted by renowned Rennes-based anonymous street artist who goes by the name WAR!
The beautiful pop of colors in the floral design of this basically priceless piece of art was our foundation and backdrop for each of the 15 sessions recorded over the week, as it slowly became scuffed and dirtied by so many pairs of shoes and gear coming in and out. It was kind of poignant to see that though in a way – beauty fades, doesn’t it? Luckily we filmed it all to enjoy for years to come! Keep reading below to learn more about the 15 amazing artists we met over the week.
Local 60s psych rock duo Moundrag are brothers Camille and Colin Goallen of Rennes, France. Both currently attending the Rennes music conservatory, they played a fun, heavy set consisting of percussion, keys, and dueling vocals brought to life with costumes, three gongs, and badass attitudes. Camille and Colin grew up in a musical family, their parents are a violin and accordion folk duo, playing the traditional Celtic music of the Brittany region, but it was their love of old rock bands like Deep Purple that influenced the music they play in Moundrag. This was actually their second time playing Trans Musicales, the first time in 2017 with their former project called Smooth Motion. Moundrag released their debut self-titled EP in February.
Southern French quintet Les Grys-Grys have been honing and perfecting their sound for the last 9 years, going through configuration changes, hammering out covers for years, until May of this year when they finally unleashed their debut self-titled record of originals on the world. It’s obvious when you watch their live set that many of the band members have been friends since childhood, having a blast playing an explosive set of 60s rock influenced by The Who, Flamin’ Groovies, and Moby Grape with guitars, bass, harmonica, and various percussion. They are planning to release a new second record in early 2020 and we can’t wait to hear it!
Born to a Greek mother and a Sudanese father, Marina Satti grew up feeling slightly out of place among her peers in Greece, wanting to fit in but wanting to embrace the two sides of her heritage. It was when she began attending the Berklee School of Music in Boston for vocals that living among people from so many backgrounds helped her connect more with her own. She decided to record her own interpretation of a famous Greek song and post it on YouTube and overnight it at 15,000 views and millions within a couple weeks. Greek radio stations were playing this unmastered recording.
She then wrote her own original song call Mantissa which talks about embracing yourself, being strong, hopeful, and not getting caught in despair, clearly a message the youth in Greece needed to hear amongst recent political and economic turmoil because again overnight, the video for the song she produced herself went viral and by the time I spoke with her after her KEXP performance it had surpassed 41 million views. For her KEXP set, she sang with her long-time collaborators, a group of herself and four other women called Fonés (which means voices) in a gorgeous polyphonic chorus along with the accompaniment of keyboard, percussion, and Greek bagpipe. Currently touring and playing festivals, Marina has written her debut record, which she says will be a concept album, and is working with producers to finish the songs for an early 2020 release. We cannot wait for you to see her performance in early 2020 as well.
Chouk Bwa (shortened from Chouk Bwa Libète meaning The Roots of Freedom) are a group of some of the most distinguished musicians performing and upholding the traditional Haitian music associated with the Vodou (commonly known as Voodoo) culture. Introduced to Belgian musician Michael Wolteche during their visit to the music school in Brussels in which he was teaching violin, he became enamored and interested in learning more about their music. He travelled to Haiti and was invited by the members of Chouk Bwa to attend a ceremonial performance. From there he created a short performance recording and video of them, and from that helped them get booked for the 2015 Womex festival.
Fearing that the incredible music of Chouk Bwa would be pigeon-holed into niche “World Music”, they all began collaborating with Brussels electronic duo The Ångströmers to create a new and unique sound of layering electronic trance under intense, mesmerizing vocals and drums to create something different yet still keeping the traditional sounds front and center. The 4 songs performed during our KEXP session will all be on the new record to be released in 2020 on the Bongo Joe label, including a traditional Call for Gathering spiritual song, stories of spirits, being proud of being Haitian, and the topic of slavery and revolution. It was a truly amazing performance.
Tangled Tape are R&B/soul/jazz quintet from Toulouse, France founded by singer Ornella Mesplé-Somps and songwriter Solen Goffi. Formed in 2015, they are inspired by classic soul, New York hip hop like A Tribe Called Quest, Fugees, and Jordan Rakei. With keys, samples, bass, percussion, and Ornella’s smooth vocals, they played a sleek and groovy set. Their debut full length Back and Forth was released on October 4th, 2019.
Jawhar is Belgium-based, Tunisian-born pop-folk musician, writer, and theater artist. He came to music a little later in life, but as soon as he picked up the guitar he was consumed and began recording. After producing his first record in the early 2000s in France where he attended school for theater, he went back to Tunisia and opened his own theater company writing and producing his own works, about controversial subjects like sex in the Arab world. Soon music called him back, and after moving to Belgium he dove back into recording.
His second record, Qibla Wa Qobla, has songs in Arabic, French, and English but for his latest record Winrah Marah - a concept record - he delves fully into Arabic, exploring a different character in each song who has a quality in them that society would like to erase. The title track, for example, is about a woman who feels so pressured by society to be a mother she begins having delusions that she had a child that she has lost, named Winrah Marah which means “the one who went away”, but never really existed. All of these songs are delivered in Jawhar’s delicate vocals above beautiful pop-folk tunes. It’s really worth a listen, and if that isn’t enough, it was also named by Trans Musicales programmer Jean-Louis Brossard one of his favorite records of the year.
Go Go Machine Orchestra out of Taiwan are definitely ahead of their time. Formed by classically trained percussionist Mao-Sung Lee, they explore and combine electronic, classical, and post-rock elements into really interesting and sonically rich and layered movements. Lee has been studying percussion since age 6 and got his PHD from the Versailles Music Conservatory in Paris. Once returning to Taiwan, he connected with Ni-Li Tang (piano), Pin-Hsin Wang (electronics), Bai-Hsun Chung (synthesizer), and Li-Wei Chen (guitar). Going back and forth between a drum kit and a huge marimba, Lee creates a really interesting backbone for builds and layering of electronics, post-rock guitar riffs, and cyclical piano melodies. Their new 6 song record Time was released earlier this year and they will be touring North America soon. Look out for them!
Songø are half local to Rennes, France and half of the world which make them great posterchildren for the Trans Musicales Festival. The group consisting of South Africa-born Bristol-based singer Sisanda Myataza, Burkina Faso-born St-Malo-based Petit Piment on drums, SPD, Ngoni, and vocals, Nantes-born Rennes-based guitarist/bassist Yoann Minkoff, and Versailles-born Rennes based Mael Loeiz Danion on keyboards, MPC, and theremin have until very recently been writing songs together over Whatsapp.
Only six months ago did they play their first show together, in Rennes at the local venue L’ubu and now will soon be releasing their debut EP in March of 2020. They play a really contagiously fun set of afrobeat/latin/psych with Sisanda singing in her native Isixhosa, French, English and Petit singing in his native Moré with strong and powerful lyrics and very proficient musicianship. Plus they are amazingly nice people.
Los Bitchos are the London-based 5 piece consisting of Australian-born Serra on guitar, Uruguayan-born Carolina on guitar, Uruguayan-born Agustina on keytar, Swedish-born Josefine on bass and UK-born Nic on drums who play kickass sunshiney instrumental cumbia-rock. They’ve been picking up steam recently, getting more tours booked playing with the likes of Mac DeMarco and recently releasing their first single ahead of their record due out in 2020. I can’t recommend their live show enough, besides the music itself being inherently fun you can tell how much they enjoy playing together which makes the experience even better. Watch out for Los Bitchos in 2020!
Dutch band Yin Yin started with Kees Berkers (drums, percussions, synths) and Yves Lennertz (guitar, phin, bass, organ, synths, vocals) not expecting or anticipating their music to go beyond jamming together. The friends had been in different bands for a while and finally got around to playing together, with the intention of exploring the open tuning of South-East Asian scales combined with psych-pop. They recorded a really small release cassette demo of their stuff and played one show with a full band and somehow the demo and word of mouth got around leading them to get signed with the Belgian label Bongo Joe and touring with the likes of Altin Gün. Yin Yin have more than 80 shows behind them and released their full length in October called The Rabbit That Hunts Tigers. Double neck guitar! Open tuning! Sitar sounds! Disco! Funk! Very groovy stuff.
Recently signed to Ohio-based soul label Colemine Records (Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio, The True Loves, Kelly Finnigan) Joey Quinones & Thee Sinseers are doing classic soul right. Out of East LA, Joey Quinones is a multi-instrumentalist, producer, composer, with an amazing and unique voice. Alongside Thee Sinseers with horns, guitars, vocals, percussion, they seem set to emerge as one of the leaders in the modern-day classic soul and doo-wop revival. Their first 7” single for “It Was Only A Dream” was released on Colemine in June and the 4 songs they recorded for their KEXP session will be released on their upcoming full length in 2020. Can’t wait for this record.
Slift are the epic space rock trio out of Toulouse, France comprised of brothers Jean (Guitar, Synth, Vocals) and Rémi (Bass, Vocals) Fossat and Canek Flores on drums. Having all grown up together, they have a locked in synchronicity and energy to their playing that amplifies their sound beyond your average rock band. Main vocalist Jean delivers powerful melodies in French lyrics and the whole band creates amazing builds in each of the songs with thrashing noisy payoffs. Words cannot do justice to the performance; you’ll have to see for yourself when the video comes out early next year. In the meantime, check out their latest full length record La Planète Inexplorée released in September 2018.
L’Éclair are structural improv extraordinaires out of Switzerland who are bringing the classic grooves of mid-century Afro-Cuban Jazz and Library music into the modern age. This is another performance that is hard to communicate in words how amazing the long, 10 to 15-minute structured jam sessions build into sweet satisfying resolution. Consisting of Sébastien Bui (keys), Elie Ghersinu (bass), Stefan Lilov (guitar), Yavor Lilov (drums), Quentin Pilet (bongos) Alain Sandri (congas), these 6 friends have been playing together since 2015, but have known each other since school. Just like in their performances, their records are recorded as live jams each slightly different than the others, so their KEXP session is another unique experience. Their latest album, Sauropoda was released in May of this year and they are due to release a new EP in April 2020.
San Salvador were one of my favorite performances of the week. Based in the small village of Saint-Salvadour in the Corrèze, the vocal and rhythm ensemble consists of 3 male and 3 female vocalists, two of whom play rhythmic floor toms, and others playing various percussion. Brother and sister Sylvestre and Laure grew up with their parents searching for historic regional music in France and settled the family in the small village where they learned about the old local language called Occitan. Their father taught workshops in the traditional regional music which is where the rest of the members met and formed San Salvador.
Taking their lyrics from the secular regional folk songs and stories of love, war, and life passed on from medieval times and recorded in texts in the late 19th and early 20th century, they sing together in a very breath-disciplined polyphonic style in the Occitan language layered with hypnotic percussion. All of the music, the polyphonic vocals, and the arrangements are all original and one of the most unique and exciting things I have ever heard and seen. They’ll be doing a small tour of North America soon and if they are in your area, I highly recommend seeing them live.
Leeds-based rockers Mush capped off our week of performances with a very fun, high energy performance. They began playing together 6 years ago as a noise punk project, inspired by the more experimental Flaming Lips material, Sonic Youth, and Pavement. As they evolved, they gravitated toward and more structured and melodic sound while maintaining their visceral art-rock edge. Since releasing their debut EP Induction Party in May 2019, they’ve been playing bigger shows like opening for Stereolab on a couple dates, and the Great Escape Festival where they were noticed by Trans Musicales programmer Jean-Louis Brossard. Their full-length 3D Routine will be released on February 14th, 2020 with a special Record Store Day release on the tail of that. Keep an ear out for Mush in 2020!
We are so thankful to Trans Musicales for having us back again for what was one of the best lineups yet! Thank you to Jean-Louis Brossard, and especially our coordinator Gwenola La Bris. Thank you to our France based crew for making everything seamless and taking amazing care of us as always – Jeremy, Jean-Marc, Jean-Baptiste, Sebastian, and Pinar. A huge thank you to our kind and generous hosts at La Chapelle, especially Seb.
Thank you to all of the bands that spent their time with us and made special plans to share their music and talent. We can't wait to share all of the performances with you when we post them to our YouTube channel in early 2020 and make sure to tune in as I'll be doing features on each band as their performances are released on my show, Saturdays from 12-3pm. Until next year!