Nothing could be more emblematic of the Anglosphere’s success in this post-globalization world than the spread of Rock’n’Roll. With minor exception, almost every industrialized nation is home to dozens of active and recording Rock bands supported by thousands of fans spanning all ages. As each nation would interpret the music differently and develop local analogues to more popular bands, politics (local and global) would find their way through Rock’n’Roll. While the vast majority of active recording artists come from apolitical, liberal or leftist persuasions, it comes as no surprise that others on the further fringes sang from an entirely different hymn sheet: Nationalism.
Perhaps France’s earliest known Nationalist Rock musician is Jack Marchal, famous for forming the student activist block Groupe Union Défense along with Alain Robert and four others at Panthéon-Assas University in Paris. After enough hours covering Rolling Stones with close friend Olivier Carré, Jack would team up with Italy’s Mario Ladich, best known for his leading role in the MSI-affiliated act Janus, to record Science & Violence, an album that could roughly be described as the right-wing analogue to Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd.
As distribution of such music proved difficult, Nationalist Rock would stay in obscurity until the White Nationalist skinhead movement took the Anglosphere and Western Europe by storm. For better or worse, skinheads bequeathed Nationalist Rock with the much needed edge previous iterations sorely lacked, but with that edge came years of controversy that would plague Nationalist movements. With the cultural clout shifting leftwards in no small part due to increasing Americanization along with the long march through the institutions across Western Europe, young artists would be faced with the choice to co-opt this revolutionary genre or lose the culture war to the rising tide of leftism and new laws stymieing their firmly rooted convictions.
Enter Rock Identitaire Français. Eschewing the image of hardened urban guerrillas exemplified by their skinhead peers, this new generation of soft-spoken Frenchmen would express their views with much-needed respectability in both image and art form, and a student activist named Aude Bertrand (later Aude Bertrand- Mirković or simply Aude Mirković) would play her part carrying Nationalism towards a broader audience. Like Jack Marchal in his youth during the ’68 protests, Aude was profoundly influenced by France’s political situation under President Mitterand, but of greater significance was the music that inspired her to become a recording artist. It was no accident that Dolores O’Riordan’s lyrical poetry inspired the fledgling musician, having sung about subjects that fit comfortably into the metapolitical narrative of Nationalist politics. Dedicating both albums to her Irish idol, Aude would channel her menagerie of feelings into a pastiche of alienation, longing, introspection, enthusiasm and the revolt against rootless cosmopolitanism.
Inspired by such fervor and recognizing her songwriting talents, Jack Marchal took the aspiring woman under his wing and composed a few songs for both of her acts. Named after a Gallic goddess who symbolized strength tempered by femininity, Brixia would record and release 14 songs focusing on the personal rather than the polemical. It was serendipity that the band would coalesce into an identifiable group of musicians because Aude’s intentions were to keep it as a personal studio project. Previously assisted by longtime friend Virginie Deleuvre along with Jack Marchal and Julien Beuzard, Brixia would undergo several line-up changes before enlisting the aid of pseudonymous guitarist Charles Schlivovitz who drunkenly approached Aude after a show with a demo tape in hand. Leaving quite the impression, he successfully joined the young artists and would later record with the band.
Mon clan et les miens
Brixia’s first five songs would appear on an EP titled Mon clan et les miens. The songs’ collective emphasis on atmosphere brings the listener on a contemplative journey where man reflects on his alienation from the modern world before rebelling against the very source of dispossession. Drum machines and synths set the beat while the guitars alternate between acoustic flourishes and hard riffs that ring out. Everything here is smooth and even-keel. Aude’s soft timbre reminisces of a timid being in search of meaning, but her talents really shine whenever she sings out. Recorded on a limited budget, the production values underscore the musicians’ collective grasp beyond their reach, but with humble means yields a passion that refuses to be extinguished by convention.
Written in Aude’s teens while at Brittany, “Littoral celte” expresses one’s aspirations towards the infinite through dreamy synths, brittle guitars and ethereal imagery capturing the fog and spirit of her nation’s ancestors while solemnly contemplating one’s mortality. Our singer gently entrances the listener, transporting them to the Celtic coastline where man maintains his blood ties while aspiring towards the ideal. The blend of somber moods with spiritual musings fit the opening track.
In contrast comes the uptempo “Tenez bon on arrive” featuring some sharp guitars propelling the song. The lyrics beseech the listener to stand firm in their convictions and reject defeatism as fiercely as the corrosive media complex. It is here that we see Aude come out of her shell and sing with confidence. Towards the end the guitars indulge in some wah-wah soloing that is neither here nor there. Mixing here was critical, because her friends’ attempts to join in on the second chorus are undermined by their volume being set too low.
“La vérité est libre” is a gloomy yet soothing tune driven by somber keys and acoustics dedicated to political prisoners. The song condemns a corrupt system that monitors the faintest murmurs of dissidence and consequently imprisons men who dare to speak candidly, ending defiantly with a passage that roughly translates to “The stones will scream if they try to silence us.” Such strong subject matter demands a fittingly strong performance, but Aude sadly could not bring out her best all made worse by the instruments being mixed too loud.
Mean guitars return on “Appelez-moi” with even more wah-wah that works to the rhythm’s advantage. It seems Aude’s confidence was directly correlated with the energy of the guitars because she shines singing paeans to French landmarks. For her, the monuments serve as manifestations of a nation’s rich history that instill a sense of pride in one’s heritage. The chorus pleads for the indifferent to hear her cry.
The EP concludes with its title track that can be described as the French analogue to “Ode to My Family”. Featuring what must be the clumsiest metaphor in music history, she sings that there is room for the answering machine in her heart and assures her people that she will always be close to her kin. In spite of the goofy songwriting, the tune bookends the album on a warm note with its gentle acoustics and lyrics, but still leaves the listener yearning for more.
While the compositional aspects of the music demanded professional studio quality production to achieve the idealized sound, Brixia still managed to produce a competent, if somewhat derivative, pastiche. It would be later in the band’s discography that they would come closer to their vision
Monde de timbrés + Sur les terres du RIF - Acte II
1999 was a busy time for Aude Bertrand. After recording and releasing her first EP as Brixia, she would perform a benefit concert in Belgrade on April 5th during the height of NATO’s bombing campaign with fellow French Identitarian band In Memoriam and her husband’s Rap group Basic Celtos.
The event occurred in the evening near the Prince Mihailo Monument to an audience of what appears to be nearly 100. Aude would later reflect on that night in awe of the warm reception. Amid all the attendees showering the stage with flowers and crying tears of joy, she asserted her unconditional support for the Serbian people in face of bombardments that ended in June of that year.
Upon returning home, Brixia hit the studios again to record the sophomore Monde de timbrés. The smooth Virginie Deleuvre returns on guitar contrasted by the hard rocking Charles Schlivovitz who replaced Jack and Julien. On bass came a gentleman only known as Guillaume who does a serviceable job during his time on record. This new line-up would add some new instrumental sensibilities while keeping the core themes intact.
Both the debut and sophomore releases’ song structures owe a fair share to Dream Pop as well as anything traditionally Rock-based despite the latter still being front and center. Indeed, the cold beats from the artificial percussion sounds more at home on an EDM record. Most importantly, the shared electric and acoustic guitar work serve to layer the atmosphere in heightening the listening experience. The music emphasizes mellow and serene soundscapes even at its quirkiest moments. The acoustic flourishes imbue the sound with the much needed organic tone demanded by the subject matter. Aude’s vocal capabilities shine on downtempo tracks where she muses autobiographically in a neutral Alto octave that stays comfortably in the middle register, neither undersinging nor oversinging.
Having been recorded a year after the debut, Monde de timbrés takes the listener on a deeply personal journey through Aude’s life exploring her strongest passions and chilling fears. “Je reviendrai” continues where the previous release’s title track leaves off with the lyrics’ pastoral imagery bringing the listener as much comfort as the conveyed nostalgia brings the singer ease. The tune here is much more beat-driven but still grounded with mild rhythms. Immediately after comes the contemplative “Tourner la page” featuring spacey guitars that guide the listener towards spiritual ascension. Aude reflects on the uncertainty in coming-of-age when faced with the damning choice of leaving behind ideals in exchange for presumed responsibility. When writing this song, she remarked that too many people she knew resigned to a life of mediocrity whereas others paid lip service to their supposed ideals while still behaving like insolent teenagers well into their adulthood. For her, growing up was an opportunity to turn the page (literal translation of the song) while still staying true to your fundamental beliefs.
“Monde de béton” laments urban man’s disconnection from his roots in a world where no rivers run and city lights obscure the night sky. The song solemnly asks the question that roughly translates to, “Concrete world, where’s your soul?” Full of quirky jams and wah-wahs, “Amnésia” continues the theme of urban alienation in a club where drug addicts are lost in a perpetual haze. Our singer finds relief once finally outside away from all the noise. Ending the album are two tracks emphasizing the talents of Mr. Schlivovitz’s sharp electric guitars. While the guitar tone would sound much better given proper production values, the harder rhythms take the listener back to reality without losing any focus on the atmosphere. Bringing us full circle is the aptly titled “Change!” whose chorus cries, “You don’t like the world? Change it!”
Monde de timbrés certainly moved one step forward from Mon clan et les miens in spite of lo-fi limitations, but one cannot help but yearn for so much more. A listener can only spend so much time in the clouds before needing to return to earth, and the songs driven by heavier guitars demanded so much more than Brixia could provide. Still, this little album’s experience would satisfy anyone pining for a trip into the Nationalist’s soul.
Brixia’s last two songs would find their way on Mémorial Records’s second various artist compilation Sur les terres du RIF – Acte II. Most distinct about these two songs are real drums and guitars more in line with Hard Rock or Grunge. Reminiscent of “Zombie” by The Cranberries, “Complainte rurale” enters with mournful acoustics before beefy guitars enter over the refrain that indicts bureaucracy for decimating the countryside. The fiddle played over the verses seems tacked on for the sake of folksiness. Despite the tale of woe, Aude still stays optimistic on the following track. Featuring heavy guitars and a mean saxophone to boot, “Renaissance” calls for the Frenchmen to rise up and challenge the political order, hopeful collective action will usher in a new era. It is a shame the band apparently could not produce one more album, because a full-length release in this style would have been so much more promising.
Life After Music
After Elendil and Brixia called it quits around 2001, Aude would earn a law degree from Panthéon-Assas University that same year. She would later become a lecturer in criminology and private law at University of Evry. Most famously, she is known for her public opposition to surrogacy and medically assisted procreation (called PMA in France), sharing her views regularly on conservative commentary and occasionally making media appearances to debate others. Aude and her husband Nikola briefly returned to making music as guests for the Québécois Punk band Fleurdelix et les Affreux Gaulois, appearing in the music video for “Salut les copains” and singing live before returning to France.