Why Lewis Ofman is the toast of Paris right now

Sharp - - ON THE RECORD - By Chris Hamp­ton

WHEN PRO­DUCER LEWIS OFMAN sits at his key­board to write, he imag­ines a scene in his mind. It’s al­ways two peo­ple. Maybe they’re walk­ing, maybe just look­ing at each other. They’re in love, he says. His songs are al­ways ro­mances that play in his mind.

The 20-year-old, Paris-based artist’s mu­sic traces a line through eras of Euro pop: the warm and funky bounce of French house or Italo disco’s an­i­mated melodies pack­aged in pla­s­ticky tones. The or­ches­tral pop of clas­sic ro­man­tic Serge Gains­bourg guides like a polestar (per­haps that’s a bit like telling an Amer­i­can band they sound like Dy­lan or Spring­steen).

His great­est in­flu­ences, though, are the sound­tracks of old cin­ema — the sweet, swelling strings of Ital­ian pro­duc­tions from the ’60s and ’70s, es­pe­cially, the moody worlds of com­poser En­nio Mor­ri­cone. Ofman wants his mu­sic to im­pact the au­di­ence like film, he says. “Ev­ery time you fin­ish a film that touches you, you carry it in your head, in your at­mos­phere, for the next two or three days.”

When he imag­ines the best place to play his songs, it’s the car, he says, driv­ing on a high­way through the coun­try­side dur­ing the night. “No lights, no peo­ple, just one per­son driv­ing and think­ing. I want my mu­sic to make peo­ple think about them­selves.” It’s a cu­ri­ous am­bi­tion to place on dance mu­sic.

Singing in la langue de l’amour and shuf­fling in his Guc­cis, Ofman en­am­oured the crowd at a Toronto East Room show most fully when he stepped to the keys, where he flexes in jazzy flour­ishes and wit­nesses push close to cap­ture video proof be­cause damn, he’s good. His main key­board, the Tech­nics unit pic­tured on the cover of his Yo Bene EP — which he calls his soul, his friend, and his voice — broke in sound check, so he per­formed on an off-brand loaner shipped at the last minute and didn’t miss a beat.

Cin­e­matic and set to the clip of a mean strut, Ofman’s mu­sic has found favour on fash­ion run­ways. He likes those projects be­cause the scale of the show lets him build a larger world than a pop song does. That means he gets to soak longer in his pri­vate cin­ema, and he gets to dream a big­ger dream.

That trans­portive power is Ofman’s gift. For his lis­ten­ers, the head­phones be­come a dance club and the street be­comes a run­way.

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