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New Music: Broken Back
November 28, 2015
With the exception of a few notable contributions from certain parts of the continent, traditionally the quality of mainland European music (or at least the perception of it) has not been great in recent times. Any mention of “europop” creates shudders from whoever hears the term, and there seems to be a genuine apprehension towards records that originate from our neighbours across the channel. That said, things have recently taken an upward turn with more and more European musicians starting to mark themselves as some of the premiere acts in certain genres.
While that might not mean that they’re actually critically good, that doesn’t necessarily seem to matter – provided somebody out there likes them, they will get themselves a following. These days the amount of house DJs and music producers that started off in their bedrooms in Heerenveen or Hoffenheim is at an all time high, and with the availability and exposure that is possible through the internet their audiences are finding it easier than ever to discover them. As ever with these DIY origins, there will be some shockers mixed in with some genuine class; and it isn’t always be easy to find those in the latter category.
One of the latest offerings in this vein of musicians that are known better as producers and promoters of contemporary European popular music is Broken Back, the stage moniker of Jérôme Fagnet, a French native who has recently released his debut EP titled Dear Misfortune, Mother of Joy. By his own website’s accounts, Fagnet seems to be one of those individuals whose lifestyle is the envy of all those around him – having grown up in the unique city of St Malo (if you’ve never been, I highly recommend it), he initially looked into founding a couple of start-up businesses and now spends his time touring and creating music as Broken Back.
Taking the name of this project from his own experience and injury (a displaced vertebra), Fagnet’s material is clearly quite a personal experience for him – he has stated that the purpose of his performance is so that he can tell stories. His EP was completely self-produced in student facilities and it has been billed as a record of “anthems to this 1990 generation”. A listen to the opening song, Halcyon Birds, gives an understanding of the contemporary pop sound that he has proven himself capable of creating; it is unquestionably of our time.
The EP itself is a four track trip through sun-drenched acoustic guitars and electronic rhythms that combine in a manner that is distinctively different to other recent musicians who have attempted the same. In place of a generic, token musical instrument repeating its pattern over and over, there’s a genuine musical creation formed in each single which suggests that Fagnet’s composition is borne out of his tinkering on the guitar. That in itself earns him a tick in my book, as it shows there is a consideration for how to make a well crafted tune, and not just one that will go down well on the radio.
Words by Sion Ford