Parisian band La Femme returns with Paris-Hawaï, eight meticulously crafted tracks of exoticism exploring themes of global interconnectedness, authenticity, and the delicate line between homage and appropriation. They are, but some of the themes to be presented as La Femme joins the 15th-anniversary celebration at Control Club on Friday, October 6, their Bucharest debut.
The album is Volume 2 of the band’s Collection Odyssée. The series was inaugurated with 2022’s Teatro Lúcido, a Spanish-language opus that etched the footsteps of La Femme’s musical journey into the sands of Spain and Latin America. Just as Odysseus navigated complex geopolitical landscapes, so does La Femme traverse varied cultural terrains. If Teatro Lúcido was a musical postcard from the Spanish-speaking world, then Paris-Hawaï is an aural lei welcoming listeners to the sun-soaked beaches of the Pacific islands.
The opening track, L’Hawaiienne, reignites the essence of the single released four years ago. It offers an intriguing juxtaposition of spoken word narrative with serenely ambient instrumentation, creating a sense of escapism that is both literal and metaphoric. Rather than appropriating the ‘exotic,’ La Femme embraces the opportunity to engage Pacific Islander traditions dialogically. This theme is consistent throughout the album. Aloha Baby, presented as the first official single, captures the duality of the album—meticulous electronic beats coupled with ethereal Polynesian accents.
But it’s Leila, another standout, that envelops you in a tropical reverie with its hypnotic soundscape, cultural interplay, and philosophical underpinnings. The track becomes a microcosm of the human condition, encapsulating the ebb and flow of happiness and despair. When the lyrics state, “Et que la joie me dit ‘Goodbye” (And joy tells me ‘Goodbye’), La Femme subtly channel the melancholic philosophy of Albert Camus with a nod to the absurdist understanding of life. This juxtaposition of joy and sorrow affirms that happiness is not a constant but a variable, always at risk of slipping away. Leila serves as the antithesis to Aloha Baby, diving deep into the psyche of a tropical dream.
Overall, the instrumental landscape of the album stays free from exotic caricatures, presenting itself as a careful exploration rather than a superficial exoticism. It’s an ambitious endeavour considering La Femme’s French origins, yet they handle it with a remarkable degree of nuance.
Artistically, La Femme continues to cultivate an intersectional approach. In collaboration with American artist Ariana Papademetropolous, the band forges a visual language that complements their multi-layered aural narrative. Previously, La Femme had teamed up with English artist Sophy Hollington for Teatro Lúcido, Italian artist Tanino Liberatore for Mystère, and Belgian artist Elzo Durt for Psycho Tropical Berlin in a melting pot of international artistic sensibilities.
Paris-Hawaï continues an intellectual journey that harmonizes La Femme’s eclectic influences while remaining deeply rooted in a French tradition that consistently recalls philosophers like Descartes and Pascal. In doing so, it echoes the genre-bending ingenuity of acts like Gorillaz but with a more pronounced existential nuance. La Femme thus positions themselves not as transient tourists but as global citizens in an era grappling with cultural exchange and authenticity issues. Paris-Hawaï stands as a statement on the possibilities and intricate responsibilities accompanying the global cross-pollination of art. It’s a work that deftly balances cultural homage with artistic integrity, inviting listeners to engage, ponder, and appreciate the complexities of our interconnected world.