Each sound has an aura, a striation and a temper that evokes a sentiment, however expressible in nomenclature. Some artists produce blissful, glossy party jams, while others dig much deeper. The tracks on Para One’s Club survey the latter vagary, each sounding like it is set in a dark, dusky club, with sounds of haphazard tech gargles, hurtles and whiplashes. The upshot is a set of songs with endless layers—danceable and desolate all at once.
A hero of French electronica, DJ and producer Jean-Baptiste de Laubier (who is better known by his musical moniker Para One), has enjoyed rave reviews and worked with some of the genre’s most esteemed dignitaries. Para One initially gained traction as a beatsmith for French electro-pop outfit TTC, before launching his solo career. A film director in his spare time, Para One has a kinetic knack for switching from hip hop to house to techno.
While Para One has been making beats since the ‘90s, his upcoming record, Club, has an unmistakable sharpness. Para One mines sinister sounds and escalating synths to create his sound for Club. It’s a love letter to electronic music’s golden era, imbued with warping sounds and aggressive waves. In a time where electronic music is largely driven by spectacle, Club is a breath of fresh air. Need a taste? Take a listen to “You Too,” the illusory, trancelike lead single from his new album. The song does a lot with little—it’s neurotic and addictive in its simplicity. A disparate synth melody caps things off, making for a delightfully anomalous club banger. His dream-laced, distorted tracks bring the perfect amount of nostalgia to something entirely new. Club is an epic, yet understated, set of tunes destined for clubland glory, an electro-house polymath that delivers a sonic clarity. It is, to use technical journalistic terminology, good as eff.
I spoke to Para One over the phone about the state of dance music and his plans for 2014.
NICOLA WALI: Was it always your ambition to work in music?
JEAN-BAPTISTE DE LAUBIER: Yeah, it was supernatural, since I just started making music almost as a kid, you know, basically as a teenager. I didn’t take it seriously at first, it was just a hobby, but then the hobby took over. So, yeah, music is obviously an influence since the very first day.
WALI: Who has the greatest influence on your music and film career?
DE LAUBIER: Okay, the biggest influence? Wow, that’s tough. It’s a lot of influences. For music, it’s somewhere between Aphex Twin, Andre 3000 and Prince, I guess. Although you’re not supposed to hear it in my music, that’s what I like. And for the movies, the main influence is Chris Marker, the French director. I would say, regarding American directors, I’m a big fan of Michael Cimino and Michael Mann.
WALI: Who is the one guy you think is the best dressed?
DE LAUBIER: That would go back to Andre 3000, I think.
WALI: Where did you get your inspiration for this newest album?
DE LAUBIER: Well, the inspiration, basically, is from the club because as I was touring, I realized that my justification for 10 years has been to make people dance every weekend, basically. But, none of my records were really dance records, proper dance records, it was always electronica. I thought it was a bit weird to not have an equivalent in my records of what I do every weekend. So this is the first time I decided to translate that club energy into a record.
WALI: If you could describe the perfect place to listen to this new album for the first time, what do you think it would be?
DE LAUBIER: I would be tempted to play it in the club … But in the car on the way to a great party when you’re super excited with your friends. I mean Passion, the record I did before was meant to be listened to alone, and the new one, Club, is made for collective listening, I think, several people in the same room.
WALI: Who would your dream collaboration be with?
DE LAUBIER: That’s another tough question. I would be tempted to say Prince again. Besides Prince, Andre 3000 or Aphex Twin.
WALI: Which of the tracks would you say best encapsulates you as an artist?
DE LAUBIER: On my new album, I think “Wake Me Up.” “Wake Me Up” is probably my favorite, for many reasons. I really like that one.
WALI: What else are you passionate about besides music and film?
DE LAUBIER: Well, I would love to be a writer one day. That’s a childhood fantasy.
WALI: A songwriter or just a writer?
DE LAUBIER: Just a writer. That was the job I wanted to do when I was a child, then, I don’t know, I changed my mind, hah.
WALI: If you could do it all again, is there anything you would do differently?
DE LAUBIER: I guess I would be more patient. I mean, I’m happy with the way everything happened. There’s nothing I would change. But, it’s true that when you’re young, you just rush into things. You know, you go faster, and you want it to happen right away, and there’s no need for that. You can do it slowly.
WALI: What’s next for you?
DE LAUBIER: Well, I’m going touring in Lux, obviously around the release of the new album, but then I’m working on a new project. It’s going to be a movie and music. So for the first time, my two activities are going to merge into one.
WALI: What do you see for the future of electronic music?
DE LAUBIER: Well, in the near future, it seems that in the US, it has exploded over the last few years. There’s been this huge rise of all those festivals of what they call EDM. I think it’s time now for a new underground scene in America. So, I think the new ideas will come from the underground in the US, North America in general because I think the history of electronic music is about the dialogue between the US and Europe. It’s always back and forth if you think of Kraftwerk and Afrika Bambaataa, then to Detroit techno then back to Europe. You know, there is this dialogue, it has to keep up.
Photo courtesy of Big Beat Records