Insomnia Pop: Anoraak Seizes The Night

Day and night are different worlds—and that’s what Frédéric Rivière channels in his work as Anoraak. The soft-voiced French artist recently followed up his 2010 album Wherever The Sun Sets with Chronotropic, an 11-track ode to the nocturnal. Rivière’s still living in dreams, but he’s updated his wistful take on synth-pop with more urgent, dancefloor-ready rhythms, from the bass-heavy groove of “Guest Star” to the crisp “Hello Again.”

Chronotropic evokes images of convertibles, palm trees, and Wayfarers, all in the color palette of an 80s sunset. I caught up with Rivière via email to talk summer nights, recording, and getting romantic.

Your music’s typically quite nocturnal. What draws you to what happens after the sun goes down?
I’m basically quite a nocturnal guy. I used to compose a lot at night, sometimes until really late, especially for that record. I definitely love the night mood, it’s quiet, and extremely inspiring to me.

It seems like a lot of recent notable albums also take place in this post-midnight zone. Do you think this might have something to do with the popularity of “Midnight City” and the Drive soundtrack?
As far as I’m concerned, I don’t think so, as I’ve always been like that. It’s in my genes, I guess. Anoraak still has this ‘80s sunset’ picture, but it’s definitely a late night project to me. Chronotropic definitely renders at best what I’ve always wanted to express through this project.

What’s your own favorite record to listen to at night?
Don Caballero’s American Don is a great night record. For a long time, I used to go to sleep listening to it.

Summer is also a recurring theme in your work, could you talk a little about that?
I spent some of my early years in the lovely south of France, where the sun shines most of the year, and leaving that place has been a massive heartbreaker. I think since then I’ve sustained a kind of frustration about sun, summer, etc…

My guess is, night is the time for dreams, and when the sun gives place to darkness, you start to think about the things you miss, the things you [fantasize about]. And instead of dreaming, I try to put this in music, so that may be why there is a summer feeling in my sound.

What was different about how you recorded Chronotropic from your previous work?
No big differences from the other records, I did the most of the record at my own studio, just a couple of tracks were recorded with my stage musicians (“Sunrise to Sunset,” “Made Up”). I just have some more instruments and better recording gear. And because I knew exactly how I wanted it to sound like, I also did the mix.

This feels like a somewhat harder-sounding record.
Yes, it was one of main wishes for this album. First, it matches with the concept of the album, and I wanted these tracks to be basically built for the live shows. Also, I had already in mind the edits I could do out of them, like I did for “Guest Star.” Some more will come in the near future.

Did you find any new influences that you think come through more here?
Definitely yes, but it’s hard to say which ones specifically. I do think every single music, every single movie, piece of art, landscape, etc, will influence you at some point.

Which song on this record has the most unusual story behind it?
“Sunrise to Sunset” has a story. We recorded this song with my two musicians a while ago, at a friend’s studio in the south of France, where you see the Mediterranean sea by the booth window. While recording this quite calm and relaxed jam, outside there was a hell of a storm, lightning bolts were hitting the water every five seconds. We couldn’t even get out from the place, as the roads were closed. That was an epic moment.

If this record was a person, what would they be like?
Like me!

What do you want people to be doing/seeing/drinking when they listen to Chronotropic?
I think driving a car is one of the best options, considering the feedback.

What’s your dream tropical getaway like?
I really like Australia, but it’s not very tropical, just a lot sunnier than France. But the word chronotropic has no relation with the tropics, it’s a medical term to qualify a substance that can change the heartbeat rate.

Would you say this is a less romantic album?
I don’t think this one is less (or more) romantic. To me, romanticism is not necessarily naive and surrounded with flowers, it can also be serious and dark. Actually, it is serious and dark  :).

 Chronotropic is out now on Grand Blanc. For more, follow Anoraak on Facebook and Twitter.


Visit Paris At Night With Anoraak’s ‘Morning Light’

Anoraak wasn’t on the Drive soundtrack, but his love of cinematic productions and nocturnal journeys won him a spot on last year’s film-inspired tour with College and Electric Youth. Hailing from Nantes, France, the producer/singer born Frédéric Rivière first became know for his smooth, romantic take on synth-pop with 2008’s Nightdrive With You, then Wherever The Sun Sets in 2010. He’s now set to release third LP Chronotropic on November 5.

Here’s the first single and video from the album, "Morning Light." The song takes place as night starts turning into dawn, but promises to keep the party (or insomnia-induced anxiety) going with its insistent pulse. The clip, directed by Ben Chadourne, follows a lone skateboarder exploring Paris after dark. It’s a perfect fit for Rivière’s tales of nighttime isolation.

BlackBook Tracks #5: Vive La Fête

Now that you’ve recovered from your Fourth of July celebrations, let’s talk about how tomorrow is Bastille Day. France totally puts America to shame when it comes to partying for the sake of national pride, so it’s time to do it all over again. Here are some coups de Coeur for la fête nationale.

Pravda – “Je Suis French”

The name of the song explains everything in this electro-punk take on national identity.


Phoenix – “Napoleon Says”

An old but good one from what the rest of the world sees as the reigning kings of French rock. They’re due for a follow-up to the hugely acclaimed 2009 album Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, but the back catalogue is always worth revisiting.


Housse de Racket – “TGV”

This Parisian electro-rock duo alternates between French and English lyrics, and this highlight from sophomore album Alésia sees them embracing their mother tongue. They’re also known for incorporating “La Marseillaise” into their live show.


The Aikiu – “Pieces of Gold”

This song has gone viral recently, thanks to a music video featuring porn made SFW. The bright and breezy track also deserves it on its own merit.


Yuksek – “The Edge”

France’s best-kept secret is Yuksek, electro-pop artist extraordinaire. His latest single “The Edge,” released this week, exemplifies his brand of dance music for both head and hips.


We Are Knights – “Tears”

Under chilled-out production and hazy vocals, the beat keeps this song as assertive or laid-back as you want to hear it.


Yelle – “Mon Pays”

Despite singing strictly in French, Yelle have always had a healthy audience in America. Even if you can’t understand what Julie Budet is singing about, her tone effortlessly communicates everything against a background of glittering synths.


Anoraak – “Long Hot Summer Night”

This song sounds exactly like its title, all lingering warmth and hints of romance.


Justice – “New Lands”

The latest single from the irreverent Parisians was just graced with one of the best music videos of the year so far, if you’re into futuristic sports.


Make The Girl Dance – “Tchiki Tchiki Tchiki”

The trouble-making dance production duo takes on surf-rock and it totally works.


Joe Dassin – “Les Champs Elysées”

Pourquoi pas?