At the beginning of the 80s „New Wave“ reached France – the country, where since primeval times King Chanson ruled over pop music. Infected by Kraftwerk, Human League and Ultravoxx, Pascale and Sylvain moved from South France to Paris. There they met singer Isabelle, who was fluent in English with a slight French accent. Pascale, Sylvain and Isabelle experimented with simple analog synthesizers and rhythm machines, even though they knew that in 1981 it wasn’t about reinventing “neon lamp pop”. The new wave was rolling to long for that. Therefore they bethought themselves of their second musical passion: the feathery Latin-Sounds of Antonio Carlos Jobim and Joao Gilberto. Luckily the drum-computer had a “Samba”-program and on that basis they arranged repetitive Synthesizer melodies, which reminded of Suicide in its simplicity, but of course sounded a lot sunnier. After their first gigs in subway stations, they sent demo tapes to several foreign labels – in France the music market wasn’t interested in their sound. The Belgian Label Crepuscule, where among others Tuxedomoon released their avant-garde sounds, were thrilled at once and offered the three young French artists a contract.

Now they got down to business: Crepuscule engaged London producer John Foxx for Antena’s first single. Foxx was bandleader of Ultravoxx and had set new standards in contemporary sound aesthetics with his solo album Metamatik two years before. Until then, pop music hadn’t consisted of such cold and precise sounds. Antena admired Foxx. Still they followed their very own concept: Samba-New-Wave. They covered Getz/Gilberto and Isabelle rhapsodized on their first single about a „Boy from Ipanema“. The next recording followed immediately: Antena moved to Brussels, to record their first 18 minute mini-album: Camino del Sol. Here the complete potential of the French trio unfolded: the fragile sound texture, the aspired lyrics and slightly cranking arrangements of the feverish title song are so touching and at the same time unbelievably glamorous, they are ironic and clarified that it is hard to categorize this song. The off-key Bossa Nova Hymn „Bye Bye Papaye“ sounds as if Stan Getz and Joao Gilberto are jamming together, while in the background New Order bassist Peter Hook is maltreating his instrument.

The lulling sounds of „Camino del Sol“ were pure hedonism turned into music, but above all they were a wild crossover, never heard of before. Somehow Antena managed to fuse the morbid industrial charm of Belgium with the sweet life of the Copa Cabana. It’s a pity that they were ahead of their time. In the 80s – a time when all music had to fit into a category – the wonderful alien sound of Antena didn’t reach more than a small circle of insiders. Correspondingly small were the editions of Camino del Sol – and correspondingly expensive are the original recordings today. Still there was one music scene in the 80s on which Antena had a major impact. The Cosmic scene, which celebrated the wildest parties around Lake Garda and all of Northern Italy at the end of the 70s, adored the French sound. The reason was probably that Cosmic was also like Antena a musical bastard. DJs such as Daniele Baldelli, Mozart or Beppe Loda created a new kind of disco music that mixed everything that seemed kind of far out: they mixed Conrad Schnitzler with Chris and Cosey with Dub with Bolero etc. Most of the time two to three records were playing at once, sometimes too fast or too slow. Antena’s songs are represented on all of the legendary mix tapes. Sometimes in normal speed, sometimes turned into a “smurfsingsong” on 45 rpm. And on each tape they perfectly fit into the breakneck mixes while standing out as lofty easeful moments. It is too bad that Pascale, Sylvain and Isabelle didn’t even know of their fame in Nothern Italy. Thus it is well deserved that twenty years later due to an allover cosmic revival the music world celebrates Antena, as an avant-garde phenomenon of a joyous crossover, which has created timeless hymns that are irritating and enchanting until today.

Paul-Philipp Hanske

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