When French dance music wizard Etienne de Crécy takes to the center of his "cube" in the Sahara tent for the final set of the 2009 Coachella Music Festival on Sunday night, he'll be mounting the biggest, most advanced sound and light show the desert event has seen since his fellow Parisians Daft Punk came out of hiding and debuted the now-iconic pyramid in 2006.
de Crécy is often credited as being one of the musicians who in the mid-1990s pioneered the "french touch" sound, a popular take on house music featuring highly compressed drums, deep disco basslines, and distinctive digital filters. He made the Motorbass album with Philippe Zdar of Cassius, founded the Solid record label, made two "Super Discount" albums with Alex Gopher, and released the "Tempovision" album along with numerous singles of his own.
The Cube, an advanced live show that matches de Crécy's beats with a three-dimensional light and video show that is both psychedelic and minimal, debuted to rave reviews at the Transmusicales festival in Rennes, France at the end of 2007. Since then, he's taken the show to more than 30 countries around the world and the Cube will make its U.S. debut this weekend at Coachella. de Crécy will be back with the live show at the All Point West festival in New Jersey on Aug. 2.
The Cube is a collaboration between de Crécy and the French design collective EXYZT. Architects by day and techno musicians by night, EXYZT have been experimenting with scaffolding and lighting design for a variety of temporary structures and art instillations in France for several years. For de Crécy they created not only a stage set that could be easily built in a short period of time, but one that highlighted the music and the musician himself, turning a knob-twiddler into an unforgettable spectacle.
"The sound and pictures and visuals are like building elements as much as the scaffolding," said EXYZT's Pier Schneider.
de Crécy runs the entire show from his perch in the center. "I am controlling the Cube," de Crécy told Billboard.com while preparing to travel from Paris to Palm Springs. "The guys from EXYZT not only designed the Cube, but they created the software that receives my MIDI info and plays the videos on the Cube.
"I am really free in the the structure of the show. I can stay as long as I want on one track and when I decide to go to another track, the video follows the music," he said. "The music is really really live. There is no laptop in the Cube. It's old school - a real home studio."
The effect is kaleidoscopic, and even though the tracks he's playing are not as familiar and anthemic as Daft Punk's, the overall experience proves the French currently have the market cornered on the next level of stadium-sized techno light shows.
In fact, the show made such an impression on the producers of last year's MTV Europe awards that they asked de Crécy and XYZST if they could hire them to recreate the Cube for the Killers' performance last November.
"XYZST offered to do something new and different for the Killers, but they really wanted Etienne's cube without Etienne," de Crécy explained. "So we said no way. And they said OK, we will do it without you, and they did it."
In fact, the show borrowed so many of deCrecy and XYZST's unique design elements, that a possible lawsuit is still in the works. "Our lawyers are speaking together at this moment." he said. "Its still going on, but the damage is done already."
"With this technology you can do a lot of different things. Anyone can do scaffolding and effects but they stole the design too."
So will there be a Coachella showdown between Etienne de Crécy and the Killers, who are headlining the main stage on Saturday night, if they run into each other backstage this weekend?
"Its not the Killers," he said. "I don't think they knew my show before that."