Motorbass were the gently beating heart of French dance music in the 1990s, the duo’s octopus arms encircling everything positive that would come to pass in the scene’s French touch pomp. The duo consisted of Étienne de Crécy, who would record the epochal Super Discount albums, and Philippe Zdar, later of Cassius and an acclaimed producer and mixer for the likes of Phoenix, the Beastie Boys and Cat Power.
Between them, Zdar and de Crécy would go on to work with a who’s who of the French touch, from Daft Punk to Air, Alex Gopher to DJ Mehdi. But it was ‘Pansoul’, the duo’s only album, that marked the peak of their collaborative genius. This was an album that in 1996 (along with St Germain’s ‘Boulevard’) dragged French music out of its critical hole, paving the way for Daft Punk and all that came after. But it is also a uniquely European album, one that took inspiration from techno’s deathless Detroit/Chicago axis and moulded it into new shapes, looking to boulevard jazz, hip-hop and collector’s funk for inspiration as well as The Belleville Three.
This unique mixture was thanks to de Crécy and Zdar’s backgrounds. Zdar grew up in the south of France, moving to Paris after he discovered jazz; De Crécy was a punk rock bass player who learned sound engineering after realising his guitar skills were unlikely to bring him riches. The two met at Studio Plus XXX, where Zdar was a sound engineer and de Crécy an assistant; after attending a rave in the winter of ’92 they realised they wanted to make techno and hunkered down to do so. At the time, techno was largely made on synths and drum machines but the duo’s experiences of working with hip-hop acts at Studio Plus XXX led them to build their music from dusty-fingered samples.