Tell someone you love French synth-pop and they’ll probably think you’re a bit pretentious. Dalston is your stomping ground, and anything with an accurate listener count over 1k on Spotify is too popular. But, who cares? Not Flavien Berger.
His avant-garde electronica has been floating around since 2015, but the release of his most recent album, Contre-Temps, gave him that extra push he needed to cause a stir over the Channel. He is no stranger to London though. He’s slowly built himself up to tonight, and with the packed out warehouse in front of him, he’s definitely cracked it.
“You’re my village people,” the Parisian producer admits with a laugh, not able to hide how long he’s been waiting to tell the joke. With his arms outstretched, welcoming cheers and applause, it’s clear this young man has no need to feel down. The crowd adore him. How couldn’t they?
His music may be off-kilt but he doesn’t play up to this in his set. He’s armed with multiple synths, enough microphones to have one geared up to let his voice out-shriek Kate Bush, and a red head torch to have a laugh with. But, there’s never any eagerness to be the greatest showman. Small talk between tracks ranges from a refusal to speak his native language, despite the French-majority in the audience, and a dissection of the word ‘deadline’. It’s all just natural. It’s all part of the charm.
A few songs in, he finally dad-dances his way outside the safety of his synths. Dance-track ‘Deadline’ with its repetitive, almost hypnotic chants, and the more playful ‘Maddy La Nuit’, bring the crowd up to speed with Flavien’s new found energy. The sunglasses are finally taken off, despite confessing they’re prescription, the strobes start pounding and the beats are relentless.
His latest single ‘Castelmaure’ takes a turn for the more surreal, and calm. Torch high in the air, he pushes for the crowd to sway along, while the unearthly vocador-cries of the synth loop behind him. The softer, more romantic-sounding, tracks are as well received as those with more oomph. ‘Gravité’ off his first record is more of a singalong, with the gentle “oohs” and pulsating synths allowing time for a breather.
It’s soon time for the black party, aka ‘La Fête Noire’. With over two million streams on Spotify, one-and-a-half million views on YouTube and a feature on an Apple iPhone ad, it’s the one people are here to see. Kicking off with the Michael Jackson-style screeches and electro-pop beats, it soon mellows out but not for long. The sonic rollercoaster is more extreme live. He twists and turns from the chorale harmonies to a sudden-burst of dance, and then back again. He’s one for surprises.
A quick time check makes the title of Contre-Temps seem too canny. With only seven minutes left, he’s left working against time to have any chance of an encore. The 15-minute long ‘Léviathan’ gets crammed down to fit, but he manages to pull it off. The intensity of the swirling melodies are matched by a light-show so beefy it’s a smack to the face. Of course Flavien doesn’t want to miss out on that. He leaves his equipment to do the work, and pushes his way through the crowd as far as his mic lead will take him.
The whole show is executed perfectly, with his charisma and skill shining through. Imagine the set you need at 5am after a long night out to keep you going, and you’ve got it in one. He’s got the tunes. He’s got the jokes. He’s got the moves. Merci Flav. Merci.