Little is known of Matthieu Roche aka FRAGRANCE. apart from the self-description as a “dreamy synthpop project from Paris”.

Working by himself, Roche has been releasing single tracks via Soundcloud since 2016. Two years ago saw the artist present his first EP entitled ‘Dust & Disorders’ and more recently he covered the GALA hit ‘Freed From Desire’. ‘Now That I’m Real’ is his first long player and, for an album debut, this stuff is rather good. Featuring Neil Tennant-like vocals and clear musical influences from PSB themselves, Roche is introducing the listener to his own sublime take on Parisian synth.

Starting with ‘Gone In A Wink’ with its tribal arpeggios alongside bubbly synth and scant elements of EBM made classy, the curiosity leads the way to something ‘So Typical’, except typical is what it is not. With the dreamy synthwave textures and a vocal that seems to sit comfortably on one level, hypnotic yet awakening, Roche is onto something special here. This is neither retro, nor is it future.

‘Endless Cold’ encapsulates club components along with a claustrophobic feel of a defined space, leading into the depths of ‘Gravity & Grace’. Here, the beat picks up onto a cacophony of dance and rhythm, while ‘Hazy Strobes’ meets vocalist Hante presenting more of a relaxed approach, with the qualities of a good electronic ballad.

‘Crawling To The Void’ moves the body with something of a classic PET SHOP BOYS again; Roche clearly feeling at his best while in this skin. The uneven steps of ‘Leaving The City’ represent a sweet return to the classic synthpop era, with a twist. It’s vintage but modern at the same time, soured with added depths and peppered with sublimal approach to electronic machinery. ‘Heatwave’ ushers the warmth and comfort of comprehensive musical rhetoric, painting a landscape of purity, almost ‘Crystalline’.

Maya Postepski joins FRAGRANCE. on ‘At Last’. The former drummer of AUSTRA and a TR/ST collaborator, Postepski has been making music for a long time, and enjoys remixing and production; here she brings the newest of visions musically, as well as lending her vocals en Français.

The opus ends on ‘The Missing Part’, which rushes through the paces, putting all the pieces together, while the “missing part” cannot be located. The track transcends colourful visions and fragments of reality as seen by Roche.

Maybe not a newcomer as such, FRAGRANCE. has created something of a conversation piece here. The obvious PET SHOP BOYS connotations cannot be ignored, but this is neither a copy nor a direct steal.

Roche has provided some great new elements into something that could be described as retro, and he does it with Parisian style classic simplicity.

Certainly one to look out for…

‘Now That I’m Real’ is released by Synth Religion in CD, vinyl LP and digital formats, available direct from

Text by Monika Izabela Trigwell
28th February 2019