Before Daft Punk, before Air and Cassius and whichever French dance act is in vogue at the moment, there was a surly, opinionated Parisian called Ludovic Navarre who lived with his mother in the St Germain district. In 1995 he released an album, Boulevard which, some claim, managed to change the face of dance music. His masterful fusion of jazz, house and techno sensibilities into one seamless, organic whole might not sound especially thrilling by today’s standards, yet somehow Navarre’s slick, waxed-pine house workouts were perfectly acceptable back then.
In the absence of any new material, we’re offered 12 hard-to-find tracks recorded between 1992 and 1996 which not only highlight the man’s prescient production skills but also remind us of how rapidly dance music has evolved in four years. Or not, as the case may be. The deep pulsing techno of French could hold its own with any of, say, Underworld’s recent offerings, while the piano-sprinkled soul of “Deep In It” undoubtedly inspired a nascent Air. Like all the best records, though, Boulevard and these off-cuts were of their time, not ahead of it. Still as B-sides collections go, this is almost essential.