Enveloped by a sparkling rhythm, it’s easy to lose yourself in the ethereal driving tracks of French electronic musician Irène Drésel. Far from the industrial clangs and smacks of the Berlin and Detroit techno scenes, Irène’s bounce and color are hypnotic. A finely tuned eaux-de-beat. Let’s be clear though, Irène’s Paris underground bona fides are second to none. Her first time seeing a DJ came as a teenager, a bouncing party in the Catacombs, and her first performance, a decade later, at the cavernous David Lynch-designed nightclub Silencio.
After studying at the Beaux-Arts de Paris and the Gobelins, two of the nation’s most prestigious post-secondary institutions, a career in the contemporary art world seemed inevitable. But despite the creative ebbs and flows ultimately leading Irène to music, an artistic vision drives her creative process from her production and performance down to the flowers that adorn her futuristic stage setup.
Flaunt spoke with Irène fresh off the awards circuit, where she took home the César—France’s answer to the Oscars—in best original music for her first film score with À Plein Temps, adding yet another artistic hyphenate to her impressive creative career.
Congratulations on winning a César for your work in À Plein Temps. How did this project come about, and how did you approach composing a soundtrack for the film?
Thank you very much for your congratulations, it was a great emotional moment for me and for the whole movie team as well. When [the production] called me, they were in a hurry, so I chose a single scene, and I made several proposals for Eric Gravel, the director, on that single scene, so that we could know if we were going in the right direction and refine the choices in the most efficient way without wasting time. Eric wanted to work with an artist who came from the performing world rather than from the cinema industry. Eric had a very precise idea of what he wanted for his film. He wanted a 70’s type of music that was modern at the same time. I composed it with precise directives and al soon instinct. The fact that this is my first soundtrack left room for improvisation.
Eric Gravel wanted something organic that would be like a pulse, like waves that take the character into her inner emotion(main character starring famous French actress Laure Calamy). He didn’t want any percussion or kick, but we had to feel it anyway. It’s music that follows the character’s blood flow, interspersed with more dreamlike moments, for example when she travels back home at night in the public transport. It is repetitive music. We start each morning with the same notes, like the alarm clock, then the sounds evolve during the day. The result is quite conceptual. I worked 7 days a week for two months.....even Sundays...“Full Time,” like the movie! A great experience.
Through controllers, sequencers, and synths, you incorporate a lot of live elements into your performances. What is the process of creating in front of a crowd like for you?
The live show is made up of several elements from the pieces that make up my music albums. The elements a reseparated (the keyboard is separated from the rest, each sound element is distinct)but the listener can recognize the songs reinterpreted for the live show. I compose alone, but I am accompanied live by the percussionist Sizo Del Givry. His performance has a visual singularity that brings an organic aura to the show. In my music, sporty BPMs meet crystalline melodies, foiling the expectations of techno listeners. I love to play my music in front of crowds, it is very galvanizing!
When did you first start listening to techno? Do you remember the first DJ you went to see live?
I remember a techno party in the Parisian catacombs at the age of 16. I think that this experience stood a repressed desire that only materialized many years later. NathanFake’s Border Community label (from the UK) was a big influence on me. In July 2008, I attended a party in Paris called “We Love Border Community.” James Holden played his famous track “The SkyWas Pink.” I have been literally stuck by motion and this evening awakened this buried desire in me that only materialized5 years later when I really started to compose music for the very first time, in 2013 (my first professional live stage experience was in 2016, in Paris, Silencio Club).
You have performed in some incredible venues like the Petit Palais. How do venues like this compare to performing in a more traditional club setting?
I love the contrast of the electronic music played within institutions. These are often proposals that appear completely antinomic, and yet marry very well. It is obviously not the same feeling as in a traditional club because places like the Petit Palais are museums full of history. I am very sensitive to all these places that make the beauty of Paris. Before moving to the countryside I lived for many years in Paris so on my part,it brought me back to my past, my studies at the Beaux-Arts, the hours of wandering in the museums and the exhibitions as well as my daily walks since I used to live in the 1st arrondissement of Paris, near most of the main cultural places of the capital. When culture is open to all,
it allows people to discover prestigious places from another angle. This generates something unexpected, almost magical. People come alone or in groups to be together and have a memorable experience in a unique place. Electronic music and more particularly techno music, evokes this feeling of intensity. It is first of all the pleasure to be in communion with a music that carries us and transcends us.
Many of your performances and installations have been described as immersive. What’s your process of creating work that engages multiple senses?
I like when everything responds to each other. When everything is harmonious. For me, the image is as important as the sound and the spectator must live a total experience. When you dance and close your eyes, I want you to be overwhelmed by the beauty of the visual spectacle in front of you when you open your eyes again. For this unique live immersive project withRadio France at the Petit Palais in Paris, the spatialized sound 360° all around the spectators allowed a complete immersion in this unique place.
The visual part was also essential: the work of video mapping was important. The team wanted to generate a mapping that would marry all the moldings of the walls of the gallery of the Petit Palais. Along work elaborated from precise plans of the venue in 3D. Some patterns were even inspired by the curves of the building (digital creation by Paula Guastella). In terms of scenography, the costumes and colors (stage costumes by Léa Huetand floral design by Nicolas Pavone) were in perfect agreement with the gallery’s coatings, all this in a concern of sense,balance and harmony. The spectators went home with their arms full of flowers and a large smile on their faces. A moment of pleasure and fusion that we will remember for a long time!
Photographed by Claudio Fleitas
Styled by Nicolas Klam
Written by Bennett DiDonna
Hair by Gilles Degivry
Makeup by Kristel