London-based Peur Bleue Records has been steadily building a reputation for itself off the back of a handful of releases that have been in the nexus of techno, electro, drone, and ambient. A familiar combination perhaps, but as label boss Gohan, alias of Anatole Baboukhian is keen to stress, Peur Bleue ‘tends to be more than just another techno/dark ambient record label’. Peur Bleue means ‘shit scared’ in French, which should come as little surprise to anyone that has heard the eldritch sounds found on the label. But Baboukhian tells me that ‘though there’s an undeniable tendency to put some dark and scary tunes out, this is not the only direction we want to head towards’. He says that the next Peur Bleue release, from Nick Araguay, will prove that point.
Much like Stray Landings, Peur Bleue began as a blog before becoming a label. Baboukhian decided to set the label up at the time he was readying his debut Gohan LP Peur, as he felt that the album, as a personal document, would be out of place on another imprint. Since then, he has released a pair of Gohan EPs, most recently the _Stabbed in Konya _EP earlier this year; a full album from Altkat; and a 12” from Nummer.
To these ears the Peur Bleue sound is like a more electrifying cousin to fellow shadow dwellers Samuel Kerridge or the Blackest Ever Black label, combing through an exhilarating pool of influences such as early electronic music, Italian horror soundtracks, minimal wave analogue electronics, sound collage, and contemporary European urban musics, to create atmospheric electronic music that in Baboukhian’s words, has ‘narrative scope’. For Peur Bleue, telling a story is important. Reference points for this kind of theatrical, gallimaufry-like music include Demdike Stare and Dalhous – musicians with not just large record collections, but extensive DVD collections too. Unsurprising then, is the refreshingly consistent visual style of the label, coordinated by Baboukhian’s graphic designer brother whom he runs the label with.
The mix Gohan has put together for us is admittedly a ‘bad idea from a PR point of view’, offering a selection of some of the aforementioned influences rather than a straightforward introduction to the label. He says he has grown ‘a bit tired of doing techno-ish mixes recently’, and so apart from a few more predictable track selections such as tracks from Volte-Face and Peur Blue signee Altkat, the rest is a glorious collection of ‘different colours’, tracks he says he will ‘never get bored of’. To give just a flavor: the late English saxophonist Lol Coxhill occupies the same hour as North American underground pop musician D’eon, and pianist Keith Jarrett is found alongside black nationalist wordsmiths The Last Poets. There’s also some Vangelis too, operating under his 70s pseudonym Odyssey.
Baboukhian is originally from Paris where as part of the Ego6 crew with his brother (who remains in Paris) and some friends he was influential in the development of grime in France. He cites the instrumental that Ego6 provided for Tempa T’s ‘Swing’, as a particularly proud moment. He professes to having always been an anglophile when it comes to the ‘modern music culture’ of the UK, being drawn in by everything ‘from Joy Division to So Solid Crew’. He moved to London six years ago, and so I wonder as a relative newcomer what he makes of the musical and cultural geography of the city, and particularly Peckham, where he is based. He says the area is ‘a perfect example of the British taste for trying new things’, and highlights the new record shops such as Rye Wax that have recently opened, as well as the bars, clubs, and radio stations that have sprung up, which all help foster a sense of community lacking elsewhere. There is, of course, ‘a lot to say about gentrification and how poor neighbourhoods change in London’. With developers circling overhead the area is becoming increasingly unaffordable, but for now at least there are ‘plenty of possibilities for doing new stuff’. However as Baboukhian wryly remarks, herein lies the appeal for unwanted investors: ‘I think the corporate word for this is ‘vibrant’.