REVIEWS: POP - Super Discount 2 The Sage Gateshead ooooo

The sight of three balding producers bobbing their heads up and down as their fingers manipulate mixing keyboards, desk and computers to work up a breathtaking house-music storm may not be the most enticing proposition to many people. But for anyone who followed the late-Nineties French dance-music scene (or French Touch, as it was popularly known) the Super Discount live experience is exciting, as it is long overdue.

Why the excitement? Arguably, without the arrival of Etienne de Crecy's Super Discount concept in 1996, Air and Daft Punk might never have enjoyed the same degree of success. It was through the 1997 Super Discount album that the UK's dance-music media woke up to the concept of French dance music.

That album became the must-have house collection of the year, spearheading a musical revolution among the Parisian house cognoscenti that would not only spawn numerous Top 10 hits, but even alter the musical direction of Madonna. Her album Music was heavily reliant on the French Touch sound.

Despite Super Discount's subsequent influence on global dance music, the second instalment arrived only last month. Super Discount 2 was no less inspirational, but where its predecessor was all about defining new ground, this set was defined by its search for authenticity.

It is this same search that underlines the Super Discount 2 live show. Augmented by his fellow Parisian producers Alex Gopher (who was once in a band with the Air duo) and Julien Delfaud, De Crecy appears intent on reclaiming the spirit of house and techno from the cheesy sounds that masquerade as "dance music" these days. The band offer up an obsessive's brew of tweaking acid house, deep, pulsating Detroit techno and raw-edged Chicago house, all orbiting the relentless simplicity of Kraftwerk and absorbed through the rushing peaks and subliminal beats of the best club tracks.

Playing to a capacity crowd, Super Discount 2 deliver a series of stunning overtures that range from the twisted bleeps of "Poisoned" to the bass- driven hypnosis of "Overnet". The highlight of the set comes in "Fast Track", an adrenalised Formula One soundtrack with a bassline lifted from the vaults of New Order and injected with the deepest of house grooves.

While pundits everywhere are quick to write off electronic music, Super Discount 2 recapture the essence of house culture at its rough-and-ready best. Vintage stuff, perhaps, but also a timely reminder of how potent a force this music has been for the past 20 years.

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