Tracing the influence of Cassius’ Philippe Zdar in 12 songs

Before a tragic accident took his life, the 52-year-old French musician left an indelible mark across pop and electronic music.

June 20, 2019
Tracing the influence of Cassius’ Philippe Zdar in 12 songs Philippe Zdar backstage at Coachella. April 18, 2010.   Michael Tullberg/Getty Images

The death of Philippe Zdar on Thursday has led to an outpouring of condolences from across the musical landscape for the French musician. Best known as one-half of the house duo Cassius, Zdar worked behind the boards for artists like Kanye West, Robyn, Phoenix, and many more. He also was esteemed as a producer and engineer at his Motorbass Studios in Paris.

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Some common threads in tributes were praise for Zdar's comforting demeanor and warmth, but many artists spoke with reverence about his musical contributions as well. Zdar "shaped the geography of modern dance music," according to The Black Madonna, while Rostam Batmanglij held Zdar's mixing on Phoenix's "1901" as a benchmark for his work in Vampire Weekend.

In celebration of Zdar's wide-ranging contributions, we've compiled 12 songs he worked on as an engineer, producer, or creator.

Motorbass, "Flying Fingers"

Zdar teamed up with Étienne de Crécy in 1996 to release Pansoul, a brooding and influential house project that still sounds ahead of its time.

La Funk Mob, "Motor Bass Get Phunked Up"

Before renaming to Cassius, Zdar and bandmate Hubert Blanc-Francard debuted as La Funk Mob in 1991. True to the track title, "Motor Bass Get Phunked Up" is a funkier version of the sound that would eventually be heard in the Motorbass project.

MC Solaar, "La 5ème Saison"

The highly esteemed French MC recruited Zdar to produce on several albums, including a self-titled project in 1998. The cloudy boom-bap of "La 5ème Saison" is a precursor to a style of production popularized by artists like Nujabes.

Watch The Throne (Kanye West & JAY-Z), "Why I Love You" featuring Mr. Hudson

Like all Kanye-affiliated projects, Watch The Throne was created by a roster of all-stars beyond the marquee rappers. Zdar was one of them, credited as a composer and songwriter on track number 12.

Robyn, "Honey"

When Robyn was nearly finished "Honey," her musical white whale, she enlisted Philippe Zdar to mix the song into the modern classic it is today.

Cat Power, "Cherokee"

Chan Marshall's 2012 album received praise for its electronic bent — no doubt Zdar's mixing played a role in making sure those synths hit just right.

Kindness, "That's Alright"

Zdar was sought after to produce debut albums from hyped indie acts. Perhaps his most underrated work appears on World, You Need A Change Of Mind by Kindness, a poptimist's fever dream that pastiches decades of underground cool.

Two Door Cinema Club, "What You Know"

Zdar was enlisted to work on two of the best-loved mid-'00s indie anthems, mixing "What You Know" for Two Door Cinema Club...

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Phoenix, "1901"

...as well as Phoenix's "1901". He also co-produced the band's breakout fourth album Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, sharing a Grammy for Best Alternative Album.

Cut Copy, "Future"

A Zdar-produced album that didn't go under the critical radar was Cut Copy's Bright Like Neon Love, a more flagrantly retro work that nonetheless showcases Zdar's ability to manipulate and shape a variety of sounds.

The Rapture, "How Deep Is Your Love"

For what was then their final album In the Grace of Your Love, The Rapture produced one of its biggest anthems. House-pop at its most irrepressible, Zdar's production on this song and the album it appears on stands the test of time.

Cassius, "Feeling For You"

My feelings for you have always been real
My feelings for you have always been real

Tracing the influence of Cassius’ Philippe Zdar in 12 songs