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The Supermen Lovers



La Tebwa, Lafesse
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Though some paths are very much unique, they still come together on occasion: musical expeditions that follow winding country lanes before finally reaching the grand highway to success. Most crucial is the element of chance: gambles that pay off and meetings that make up for the sleepless nights spent fiddling with unfeasible equipment in a makeshift home studio.

This play of contrasts, this Pendulum of paradoxes, perfectly sums up The Supermen Lovers venture. The name slams home like a well-timed barb… Is this just another kitsch pop group with the slick smoothness of romantic leads? Not even close. The Supermen Lovers project is the brainchild of just one man: 27-year-old Guillaume Atlan, a Parisian whose

broad-mindedness is rivalled only by the eccentricity of his career. It was a far cry from the world of clubs and dance floors, but he now sees his ten years studying classical music in a Conservatoire and his experience as a pianist and keyboards player with numerous acid-jazz formations as a mere detail. Yet it was this that led the modest, timid producer to dream up so many projects, inventing a host of surreal characters to bring them to life (such as decadent aristocrat Stan de Mareuil on Lafessé rec., Guillaume’s own label). So The Supermen Lovers is not a group, yet given the number of artists and singers who feature on the album, aptly named The Player (Mani Hoffman, Kenny Norris, DJ Kimo, Sabrina Adnane, Janice Leca, Juan Rozoff and Lou Valentino), the project is clearly a collective: elastic, open… and naturally a little insane.

Founded in the summer of 2000, The Supermen Lovers first came to the notice of the public with Starlight, a record whose funk Georges Benson-style gimmicks and sensual vocals from Mani Hoffman and Nili still pulsate in all our minds. Just one song superbly showcased in the Nicolas Brothers’ animated video, a song that became once of the great anthems of “dance music” (in the noblest sense of the term) in the summer of 2001. But before they came to dominate the airwaves and haunt those summer nights, Starlight and its creator had to triumph over all the obstacles that the world of underground house can offer. Written in a bed-sit converted into a home studio (the vocals were recorded standing in the bath), Starlight’s first pressing ran to 2,000 vinyls on Lafessé rec. Poorly distributed, it was not until it was play-listed by Radio FG and Guillaume released a label compilation that it finally took off. When Guillaume remembers how fraught things were, he is still amazed by Starlight’s incredible success. A million copies sold worldwide and 2001’s top radio broadcast figures, all stations taken together! Not bad for a first try…

But although the song’s funk structure and compulsive chorus made it a hit, the dimensions and many faces of the Supermen Lovers cannot be reduced to a single formula. The Lovers’ Underground Disco EP, a foretaste of The Player released in February 2001, offered a glimpse of an entire world where house is not just for clubbing and dance cares little for fashion trends or passing fads. Breaking with the sunny refrains of Starlight, Marathon Man plunges into a whirl of inspired, highbrow tech-house, while Cash, the Underground Disco EP’s second volley, suggests the early days of disco. The Supermen Lovers summarily merge the all-embracing culture of house with its distinguished forbears: electro, soul, funk and disco. This is the main factor in bringing a confident originality to Guillaume Atlan’s project. On his second EP, the Ultimate Disco EP (released in September 2001), Dance With You conveys a melancholy timelessness worthy of Detroit’s greatest tech-house anthems before crashing into a vocoder chorus that would be totally out of place were anyone else responsible. Another original touch to fuel The Player’s bold energy…

So how provocative and irreverent is our Superman Lover? “I wanted to write an album you listen to in the same way you immerse yourself in a book”, explains Guillaume Atlan. “What electronic music needs is stories. Supermen Lovers tracks are constructed like playlets, like an endless game of hide-and-seek. Sometimes it’s tongue in cheek, even if emotion is always a priority.” He goes on to talk freely about his songs, telling the story of a shy, naive boy from the provinces who wants to succeed in show business! In the world of French electronic music, explanations that leave room for such unbridled imagination are rare indeed. “Actually, as the Supermen Lovers’ over-the-top name suggests, I wanted it all to be on the edge of what’s acceptable”, he says. So is The Player walking a tightrope? Based on a compelling, playful groove and efficient, skilful beats (a trademark sound that continues throughout the album), -The Player juggles funk and synth-pop, the eighties, disco and hip-hop in an animated exchange where vocals converse and the influences (among others) of the J.B.’s, Prince, Giorgio Moroder and Funkadelic meet. It is an inimitable show, its fantasies, allusions, contradictions and surprises (following in the footsteps of the Hard Stuff single featuring Juan Rozoff) in no way detracting from the uniqueness of a project swollen with fervour.

Just as some are announcing the death of house, a new chapter has been written in the story of electronic music. Yes indeed, some paths are very much unique.