The city of Saint-Étienne is steeped in industrial heritage. Originally a coal-mining market town and an important hub of arms-manufacturing pre-dating the French Revolution, the Loire capital became a prolific manufacturer of ribbon and lace-work, and then later a mass producer of bicycles, cars, and metalwork. Though it's always had a reputation for skilled craftsmanship and design, in recent years there's been a push to emphasise the city's cultural and artistic significance.
Among this wave is the aptly named Positive Education, a collective who have been putting on music events in Saint-Étienne for the past six years; an effort which eventually led to the birth of their own eponymous festival. This very weekend, the festival celebrates its third birthday with three days of dark, left-field dance music. Though biggest names topping the bill impressively include Berghain resident Marcel Dettmann, French legend Laurent Garnier, and techno producer/pioneer Paula Temple, there is a mesmeric mix of artists performing across the festival's various venues in the industrial area. Here are a few on our radar who are not to be missed.
Ninos du Brasil
This enigmatic Italian duo are a spectacle to behold live, should you be lucky enough to catch them. Masked by a kind of animalistic tinsel headdress, Ninos du Brasil seek to evoke a visceral, primal reaction to their music, emphasising the rhythm of their world music-inspired techno with a double hit of live drumming and ritualistic vocals, shattering the fourth wall in the process.
Ariana Paoletti has long been an important player in Brooklyn's underground dance music scene as Volvox and a resident of Unter and JACK DEPT., some of New York's most respected club nights. Volvox's sets mix acid-specked techno and deep house with a distinctive groove, which maintains a naturally flowing pace and energy.
On the topic of groove, it's something that France's Voiski's live performances are not without, albeit with their own cinematic and dreamy edge. Layering looping and modulating synths atop minimal and spacey beats, Voiski is one to be trusted if it's a cosmic escape you're looking for.
A Strange Wedding
Budding French producer Adrian Van de Velde released his debut EP Meta Romance in September, which, although short, breathed a satisfying steadiness and composure in its pace, meditative synths, and tribal vocals. If it's anything to go by, expect a hypnotic mix of future sounds and rudimentary beats. You heard it here first.
The Empire Line
Not for the faint-hearted. Comprised of Damien Dubrovnik's Christian Stadsgaard, Swedish producer Varg, and singer Isak Hansen of Danish noise-punk band Iron Sight, The Empire Line blend a nightmarish mix of punk and techno that somehow manages to sound both ethereal and uncompromising. Its unmistakable industrial influence – not least from Hansen's strident screams – will be right at home in the festival's setting and promises to be one of the most intense experiences of the weekend.