The news of Philippe Zdar’s tragic and accidental death has spread across the music world. His impact has been felt since he first started releasing music in the early 1990s. He may be best known as part of the genre defining and pioneering French touch group Cassius, but he also produced and engineered some of the biggest acts of a generation like The Beastie Boys, MC Solar, Cat Power, Chromeo and Phoenix. His discography is rich and vast, reaching from indie rock to pop to hip-hop, various realms of electronic music and so much more. We attempt to break down 9 of his best records to take you down memory lane. These are both entire albums and individual songs.
1. Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
This is the album that sent Phoenix to stratospheric heights. It is widely regarded as the French indie rock group’s best album and one of the best of the decade. They fully embrace synths and the more electronic side of their sound on this record, incorporating various styles of production, airy guitars and synths throughout from “1901” to the instrumental “Love Like A Sunset Pt. 1 & 2.” It sounds so crisp and well stewarded with the Zdar at his very best.
2. Cassius - 1999
This could be the single or entire album. Two years on from Cassius’ first album, the music still sounds as timeless as ever. Pioneering the French touch sound alongside Hubert Blanc-Francard, who had been working with Zdar for the past several years, they created a new avenue for house music to be heard and made. Sampling disco and soul records became an integral part of house music coming from France, bringing it back to its roots. He has making genre shifting music over the 1990’s but this is when they were cemented as the pioneers they are.
3. Cassius - I Love You So
Released in 2010, “I Love You So” became an unintentional anthem for the EDM boom. It’s slow, wavering pace combined with the repetitive vocal, dreamy synths and booming drums. The song was a bit of a different direction from French touch, with showed they can evolve and remain as great as they once were.
4. Motorbass – Pansoul
Motorbass was the collaboration between Etienne de Crécy and Zdar. Pansoul was the only major release under Motorbass, though they did often work together after. It is for many fans, the first true French house that they put together. The project remains chronically under-appreciated with their sample-heavy disco and house music that helped drive the genre forward.
5. Cassius – Sound Of Violence
Continuing Cassius’ winning streak with their 2002 album Au Reve, “The Sound Of Violence" epitomized the sort of soulful, disco-styled French house music. A minor hit around Europe (not in France), it became an important part of the 2000’s dance music lexicon, developing into one of the more sampled vocals of the era.
6. La Funk Mob – Motor Bass Get Phunked Up
Released on James Lavelle’s UK label M0 Wax, this was a time when French house producers weren’t getting the type of attention they deserved over in the UK, who was more interested in their own homegrown talent and the US. It also fit the market, leaving the four on the floor beats behind and then dropping in some breakbeat to give their quirky funk bass and sampled loops a new type of audience. The precursor to Cassius for Hubert Blanc-Francard and Zdar, this became another starting point for many in French house.
7. MC Solar – Prose Combat
This is some of the first production we heard from Zdar, who got the gig from soon to be Cassius collaborator Hubert Blanc-Francard. Francard did the work on the production, but they needed a mixer and engineer. Zdar got the gig and together they helped shape this MC Solar album, creating a sound that would become a trademark for French rap, away from just borrowing American sounds.
8. Chromeo – Fancy Footwork
The album that helped cement the type of artists Chromeo have become, Fancy Footwork brought the band into the collective mainstream. It is funky, soulful and throughly fun, which Zdar has always brought to the table. It is a project that fits into his wheel house, but provided a more organic and soulful direction for his production work.
9. La Chatte Rouge - Affaires a faire
Another one-off alias between Etienne de Crécy and Zdar, La Chatte Rouge (maybe because the name is a little obscene), the record is a super smooth number that builds around a blend of jazz and hip-hop drums and soaring strings and swirling horns. Luxurious as riding down the Champs-Élysées in a Rolls Royce, this one shows the varied types of productions that Zdar could do.