Why Do We Ignore The 70s French Underground?

Source: The Quietus. Lots of good info on 70’s French fusion / progressive rock.

English-speaking music fans don’t clumsily refer to “underground and progressive German music of the 70s”, because we have a handy shorthand: Krautrock. No such luck if you’re looking to refer collectively to a body of work that is just as challenging and impressive overall: the French avant-garde/progressive underground of the same period.

Throughout the 70s, both French and German musicians made some astonishing music: progressive, avant-garde, often anti-capitalist and usually a fuck you to Anglo-American blues-rock. Though never massively popular in their own countries, a few bands made an impact, playing live in the UK and the USA: Can, Magma, Faust, Ange. Come the 80s, the French and German undergrounds largely dropped off the radar of music fans in the English-speaking world for the best part of two decades.

Then came Julian Cope’s Krautrocksampler and the Freeman Brothers’ Crack In The Cosmic Egg. A narrative emerged that helped us understand the context of this innovative music, later developed and fleshed out by the likes of David Stubbs and Rob Young. You’d never have to tell a tQ reader that Krautrock is the result of the children of Nazi-era parents wanting to create a music that was distinctly German, yet owed nothing to their musical tradition, nor to blues-rock. We recognise Can and Neu! as among the great originators, and have record collections bulging with Popol Vuh and Amon Düül II represses. But Heldon? Lard Free? Besombes-Rizet? Not so much. France is different.

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