Psycho Tropical Berlin by La Femme clocks in at twenty one tracks and as you can imagine that is a lot to get through as a reviewer. On further inspection, I realised I was listening to the Bonus Track Version of the album. La Femme are described as a “psyche-punk band” in their Wikipedia article. They were formed in Biarritz in France. Their influences are bands such as the Velvet Underground and Kraftwerk. They also have some surfer rock undertones in their music. Their use of synths gives the album an either retro or futuristic feel depending on what way you listen to it. We are immediately introduced to the amalgamation of synths and surf rock from Antitaxi, the first track. The track is danceable as well as psychedelic.
The vocals are snappy and punk in style. There is an unmistakeable coolness about La Femme from the vocals to the experimental samples and instrumentals. I guess being an English-speaking philistine, anything in another language has a level of cool to it. Amour dans le motu has a catchy hook and pretty echoing female vocals. There is definitely something very endearing about the combining of danceable synths with surf rock and I feel La Femme manage to combine the two styles beautifully. The use of experimental sampling and sound gives La Femme’s release an hypnotic quality. Psycho Tropical Berlin is the kind of album you could put on to chill out and sit in a trance. La Femme are offering you a beautiful array of sounds to bathe in.
The album’s pop overtones and melodies along with the use of Americana and surf rock styles definitely bring up images of Nouvelle Vague and Serge Gainsbourg in my mind. Psycho Tropical Berlin is an album that brings you on a crash course through the decades. Sur La Planche 2013 is a track that almost reminds me of Blondie because of the pulsating disco style and the female vocals. Blondie were another band from yore who also had a penchant for sixties pop music and surf rock (Atomic anyone?). I would definitely compliment La Femme on their combining of musical styles to create an eccentric ambient rock style, however, at times this album felt like a bit of a laborious listen. It’s Time To Wake Up 2023 and Nous Etion Deus clock in at just over six minutes and I felt like I was stuck in the middle of the album at that point.
Perhaps, this album would be more effective with three minute synth surf songs that show case their unique sound with an occasional ambient interlude. There is something undeniably retro about the track Si Un Jour. If you had of told me this came from a synth pop compilation from 1983, I would have believed you. I did particularly enjoy how the vocals were produced and executed on this release. There is definitely an understated charisma apparent here. La Femme Ressort marks the end of this edition and brings us into the bonus tracks.
The language barrier is broken with Oh Baby Doll. There is definitely a charming sixties quality to this track. Witchcraft is a track with a spooky quality about it. The track could almost be a score to an eighties sci fi movie. There is an almost raver quality to this track, the song is extremely trippy in it’s execution. It’s followed by the ambient Witch Dub, the come down to the previous. I wasn’t immune to La Femme’s eccentricities and charisma in listening to this album. Psycho Tropical Berlin is a diverse and unique release. La Femme have an undeniable coolness and innovativeness that didn’t go un noticed. However, sometimes I cannot be an advocate for “less is more”. There is a lot going on here and a lot to take in. Had the album be compressed into twelve strong tracks, I may have given it a more positive review. I’d probably give this release a strong six out of ten.
Psycho Tropical Berlin is out now and available to stream on Spotify.