French house, a subgenre of house music, became popularized in the late 1990s and early 2000s by French acts. Throughout the years, the genre has been called “French touch,” “Filter house,” and “Tekfunk”. Filter effects, phasers, and disco track samples from the late 1970s and early 1980s, appear extensively in this style. This results in broader musical foundations than the genre’s descendants. Most songs have solid 4/4 rhythms that range between 110 and 130 beats per minute.
American dance music history has affected this genre immensely, from disco to the sounds of Chicago house and Detroit techno. Despite that, the style preserves a clear link to Euro disco and space disco. In July 1987, the term “French house” was first used in Paris. A photographer of Parisian nightlife, Jean-Claude Lagrèze, organized a handful of “French Touch” events at The Palace. The idea was to introduce people to house music. DJ Laurent Garnier, Guillaume la Tortue, and David Guetta were in charge of these parties. The phrase “We Give a French Touch to House,” appeared on a stylish jacket designed by Éric Morand for F Communications in 1991.
The recordings on Thomas Bangalter’s Roulé label may be regarded as the first attempts to build a unique style of French house. During the mid-to-late 1990s, his solo work, as well as his collaboration with Daft Punk and Stardust, had a big effect on the scene. Motorbass (Philippe Zdar and Étienne de Crécy) were also among the first in France to develop house music based mostly on samples and filtered loops.
French house and influential artists
In the mid-1990s, the initial French house experiments achieved high acceptance with the UK dance music press and European DJs. However, it wasn’t until 1997 that they achieved commercial success. The genre’s first internationally popular musicians were Daft Punk, Cassius, and Stardust. The rise of the French sound corresponded with the commercial peak of dance music’s popularity in the influential UK market. Other French artists, such as Air, signed with American labels. Meanwhile, DJs and groups like Bob Sinclar and Modjo charted in Europe.
After Madonna used French house elements on her 2005 album “Confessions on a Dance Floor”, interest in new house music seemed to fade. Regardless, labels like Ed Banger Records, which is run by Daft Punk’s former manager, Pedro Winter, continue to use and adapt the style’s sound.
Disco grooves featuring powerful basslines as in American funk and disco, Italo disco and space disco’s synth-fueled pop sound define the sound of French house music. The synth sweep of Daft Punk’s smash “One More Time” epitomizes the roots of the genre. Both “Sexy Boy” from Air’s 1998 debut album Moon Boy and “Around the World” by Daft Punk use vocoded choruses and samples. As mentioned, the sound of Chicago and New York house also had a significant impact on this style. You can hear it in the repetitive guitar and keyboard riffs of “Music Sounds Better with You” by Stardust.