La Femme opens their debut album with “Antitaxi” a track that has a science-fiction style start up before launching into a poppy-dance performance that describes the beauty of public transportation. “Prends le bus! Prends le bus! Antitaxi! Taxi beaucoup trop dangerux, Taxi beaucoup trop douteux!” which translates to “Take the bus! Take the bus! Anti-taxi! The Taxi is far too dangerous! The Taxi is too dubious!” Behind the wonderful shouting is a cheering synth and rushed drum beat that almost coincides within each other.
The entire track of “Antitaxi” feels like a sprint through crowed city streets, or a perfect opening to an 80’s movie. La Femme adopts a new wave style almost like it never left, but also modernizes it and continues to form it to their standards. They mix in odd sounding robotic noises and shrills before coming to an explosive ending and a pumped-up segue into “Amour Dans Le Motu” or “Love in The Motu”
Adopting a march-like style at first glance, “Amour Dans Le Motu” quickly changes into a psychedelic trance like track that uses different flutes and a 1-2 step style of drum beat. “Motu” is described as the “indigenous language of the Motuans who inhabit Papua New Guinia,” and given the concept of the march like style, the lyrics also go in relation, describing “Dans les plaines du Commodock, Acabour du règne animal. Tu regardes les cadavres, tu regrettes le macadam, Des pluies diluviennes qui te rappellent cette devise scandée au Vietnam.” This is roughly translated into English as “In the plains of the Commodock, Acabour of the animal kingdom. You look at the corpses; you regret the macadam. Heavy rains remind you of this motto chanted in Vietnam, our hotel is located in the heart of the city.”
“Amour Dans Le Motu” then continuously repeats the psychedelic march instrumental before finally succumbing to an intense amount of silence and then eventually rain with the next self-titled track, “La Femme.”
Using the same instrumental from the ending of “La Femme,” the track becomes twisted and includes these pounding drums that echo violently through “Interlude.” The tone completely changes and sounds more suited to incoming warfare, or even the opening to a spaghetti western before a showdown. The sliding and reverbed guitars strum wonderfully and are not only outstanding when paired with the echoing drums, but stand-out as their own powerful moving device for the track. There is then a moment of clarity where nothing but a sustaining high-pitched note from a synth rings until dying out and becoming “Hypsoline.”
“Hyposline” becomes entirely similar as “Interlude,” however La Femme adds these decrepit harpsichord notes that become the primary driving force of the track. There are also some verses and solos present here that shake the track up from the instrumental predecessor. The lyrics “Qui s’enrhume près du lac, Tu ressens les premiers symptoms, et tu mets les pieds dans l’eau,” which translates to “Who creeps near the lake, you feel the first symptoms and you put your feet in the water.” The track has an ominous melody and almost makes for a horror-movie style track that would fit in a graveyard scene as the cumbersome weight that is attached to the stringed instruments and the synths creates an old-time creep characteristic.
Following is “It’s Time To Wake Up 2023,” which is more of a synthetic and drum focused track that uses a hallucinatory style, relying more on uses of space and reverberation to display the sounds of the instruments. There is some dual vocalization where two vocalists are layered over each other in an echoing style, together they sing in translation, “It is true what is said on the other side, the grass is green, the wine is red. Eleven years ago, I met a very rare thing to keep well, against his skin I will stay. Love, Love, Overseas.”
There is also an additional segment where singer Quélennec explains, “Everyone got killed to be their slaves, Silicosis, the war was over. Mata Hari, you’re going to die, I tell the truth. 2023.” Then the instruments come crashing back in with such a bravado level of force that it almost overpowers the rest of the track. There is a bass line that acts similar to a fog-horn that cuts through the track and leads “It’s Time To Wake Up 2023” into its final departure.
The halfway mark, “Nous Étions Deux” translates to “We Were Two” and opens with an ordinary style of track with subtle singing and a bright style of instrumental. This is the case before reaching where chorus of the track is played, and the synth chords become the focal section of the track; it is a higher-pitched, “Take Me Out to The Ball Game” style of keys that create the melody of the “Nous Étions Deux.” But it is played more sporadically and sounds almost out of touch from the rest of the track. It then makes a second appearance closer to the track’s end where it gets a solo and it almost sounds distorted to the point where the keys do not even sound like a real instrument anymore. It is cheerful, then finally dissipates and lets the other instruments take over the real compelling end where “Nous Étions Deux” becomes sluggish and almost entirely different until reverting back to the original sound of the track’s beginning.
“Packshot” follows and is similar to a secret agent style of instrumentation where electronic drums can be heard pounding behind the heavily produced synth chords. La Femme has a distinct sound about them that combines both a classic style of European music and a modern sense of 80’s new wave. The combination sounds outlandish at first, but slowly warms up and becomes more of a shining aura. La Femme not only becomes impressive with an old classic, but makes it whole again with a new favorite.
This is the case with the eerie and robotic sounding track, “Saisis La Corde” which translates to “Seize The Rope.” Almost sticking with the misery theme, the lyrical style is no different and includes lines about most obviously, suicide, “You grab the rope, the ties to the beam, a thought of his wife,” and “Out of love, for death. Seize the rope, heart beats again.” This constant theme of everlasting death is then thrown off when the synthesizers go into a frenzied attack that does not really fit the imagery, but instead sounds similar to The Beatles “For The Benefit of Mr. Kite.” It is a strange mix, but the wind gasping and the keyed style instrument seems to endlessly play out, until finally succumbing to a short, but efficient silence.
An ominous and psychedelic synth opens up the next track, “Le Blues De Françoise,” or better understood in English as, “The Blues of the French,” or even “The French Blues.” This is the more minimalistic of the tracks featured on Psycho Tropical Berlin, and is an outstanding mix of both immensely weighted bass lines, and a chopped sound bite of someone quickly running out of breath. It creates yet another horror-movie aesthetic and is honestly one of the better building tracks performed by La Femme on this record. It completely changes the tone of Psycho Tropical Berlin and is more impactful because of this sudden shift. “Le Blues De Françoise” then comes to a satisfying end where a piano creates these outstanding harmonies and becomes the main foundation for the near sulking, style of conclusion.
This then leads into “Si Un Jour” or “If One Day” where it lays onto the theme of sexuality and identity. Quélennec proudly exclaims, “Become unisex, to know how to spit. Smoking all day, walking while whistling, wearing pants,” almost wishing to give up her own gender identity and become a non-binary being. This is paired with a rushed percussion set and a quicker style of pop synths. They make up the groundwork of “Si Un Jour,” where the cascading synthesizers are the main melody of the track. It creates this constant rapid fire of approach which is an immense change from the following track, “La Femme Ressort.”
Taking more of a synthetic burlesque style, “La Femme Ressort” is ear-catching from the first seconds of the track where a back somber guitar strums along and a crescendo style of synth becomes increasingly more and more present. This then leads into the explosive and utterly wonderful sound of Quélennec’s voice shining through the rather otherworldly instrumental. “La Femme Ressort” becomes one of the better tracks on Psycho Tropical Berlin and pursues a spacious sound without losing focus. The similar starting synths are the same instrument used to close the track, becoming a chilled and fulfilled ending to what sounds like the final conclusion.
While entirely sung in French, La Femme is still able to bring a universal sound that can speak to anyone. It creates a fresh breath into the seemingly dead scene of New Wave and instills the listener with a sense of hope for the future of the French music scene, and the experimentalism of modern music. Now, knowing no bounds, music can soar and reach even the most unlikely places.