Recently, I’ve been listening to a lot of old dance music, ranging from Gat Decor to Isolée to The Wiseguys to St. Germain to Freemasons. (Yes, the Freemasons. I loved and love Shakedown — a two-CD explosion of mid-2000s cheesy piano-driven, soul-flavored vocal house — and if you disagree then never return to SlackPost. Ever.) The one track that I’ve replayed the most during this retro phase — by far, really — is Laurent Garnier’s electro-jazz classic “The Man with the Red Face.”
Released in 2000 as part of Garnier’s idiosyncratic album Unreasonable Behaviour, the song prominently features the breathtaking (literally) work of jazz saxophonist Philippe Nadaud (the man with the red face!), which plays over — and sort of contrasts with — a melancholy (at first) techno backing marked by a droning bass and impeccably funky synth work. The result is a strangely dramatic track that is both rousing and, well, kind of a downer. It simultaneously captures the mood of the beginning of a big, exciting night out and its sad-but-kinda-sorta-epic comedown, when you wipe the sweat off, leave the club and realize it’s dawn, feel like the sun is melting you, and head home in a daze forgetting to drink water because all you want is BED. Basically, as one clever YouTube commenter put it, you could play this song as the soundtrack to a night in by the fireplace or to a crazy night/morning out in Mykonos and it’d be appropriate either way.
In recent months, “The Man with the Red Face” was (re)introduced to a new generation of EDM fans via a remix by Hardwell (which I don’t like). The issue, however, is that the remix actually revisits Mark Knight & Funkagenda’s 2008 COVER of Garnier’s original. And while that 2008 version is admittedly splendid, the sad and obvious result is that Garnier isn’t getting his due for having concocted a masterpiece that was barely altered in the update five years ago. Knight & Funkagenda have erroneously been getting a lot of love along the lines of, “Wow, the Hardwell remix is cool, but this original is AMAZING! Mark Knight is a genius!” And I hate when that happens. It’s like when I see (presumably young) idiots write underneath “Canned Heat” clips that Jamiroquai copied Daft Punk’s whole disco thing, even though, you know, “Canned Heat” came out 14 years before “Get Lucky.” NOT COOL, ROBERT FROST. Anyway, the good news is that Garnier is still doing his thing today at age 47, producing (occasionally), DJing around Europe, and generally being lauded as an EDM god with nothing to prove (seriously, check out the comments from his most recent Boiler Room set). Basically, he’s the very poor man’s French Paul van Dyk.