Tag: Fragrance.


Making up for lost time and revenue since 2020, the music industry really went to town on their various income streams in 2023…

Albums were being released in multiple coloured vinyl editions with the same content, sometimes as many as eight versions… while this helped in inflating physical chart positions for marketing purposes, it also gave an incorrect perception of success. As Stephen Morris from NEW ORDER once remarked to Smash Hits back in 1983: “If you believe in the charts, then you may as well believe in fairies…”

With Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino declaring that concert ticket prices were generally too low and that artists could easily “charge a bit more”, this was exactly what quite a few did and there was a noticeable price hike observed across all levels over the year.

But what about the music? This year’s song listing was quite straightforward to compile, with a smaller shortlist compared to previous years with DURAN DURAN, KITE, PISTON DAMP, LEATHERS, DELERIUM and LADYTRON missing the final 30.

Just a note that ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK has never compiled an albums list, due to long form releases now having a much longer gestation period than in the past. Therefore, songs are a much better representation of the music from a calendar year. If you like the song, then check out the parent album or EP if applicable via your chosen music platform…

Selected from tracks available on the usual online retail platforms with a restriction of one song per artist moniker (so yes NINA, John Grant,  Finlay Shakespeare and Laura Bailey each appear twice but in different combinations), here are the ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s 30 SONGS OF 2023 listed in alphabetical order…


Hailing from Melbourne in Australia, Brigitte Bardini is the latest artist to embrace her dark side having begun as an acoustic singer songwriter. Moving away from the dreampop and shoegaze of her earlier material, ‘Start A Fire’ captured an alluring gothique on top of a gritty dance tempo while simultaneously haunting and melodic. This was sinister stuff but aurally absorbing.

Available on the BRIGITTE BARDINI single ‘Start A Fire’ via Ruby Valley Records


BEBORN BETON Dancer In The Dark

Not a rework of Bruce Springsteen, the brilliant ‘Dancer In The Dark’ saw BEBORN BETON managing to out Camouflage CAMOUFLAGE with an infectious pop sensibility that more than likely came from front man and lyric writer Stefan Netschio’s love of DURAN DURAN. As if The Berlin Wall never fell, ‘Dancer In The Dark’ was a message to remain positive in the face of adversity.

Available on the BEBORN BETON album ‘Darkness Falls Again’ via Dependent Records



BLACKCARBURNING is the solo vehicle of Mark Hockings, lead singer of MESH. taking on multiple roles including programming and production. The spikey throbbing energy of ‘The Mirror’ provided a dark disco highlight away from the parent band’s template. “I’m just generally a fan of arpeggiated bass lines” he said, “I don’t think you can go far wrong with a repetitive sequence and a Roland drum machine”.

Available on the BLACKCARBURNING album ‘Watching Sleepers’ via COP International



With Lloyd Cole “excited to still be finding new methods, new perspectives, new sounds”, the standout song ‘The Idiot’ from his Chris Hughes’ produced album ‘On Pain’ gave a touching synth-laden narrative on the relationship between David Bowie and Iggy Pop as they relocated to Berlin in 1976 in an imagined conversation as the pair escaped their narcotic dependency while cycling to the studio and discothèque.

Available on the LLOYD COLE album ‘On Pain’ via earMUSIC


CREEP SHOW The Bellows

A supergroup comprising of John Grant, Stephen Mallinder, Ben Benge Edwards and Phil Winter, CREEP SHOW released their acclaimed debut album ‘Mr Dynamite’ in 2018. Utilising a punchy backing track, ‘The Bellows’ was like a blippy PET SHOP BOYS with layers of treated and vocodered vocals before being countered by enticing Middle Eastern resonances in the synth solo.

Available on the CREEP SHOW album ‘Yawning Abyss’ via Bella Union


DAWN TO DAWN Seventh Floor

Their first new track from DAWN TO DAWN since their 2022 debut album ‘Postcards From The Sun To The Moon’, the Montreal trio of Tess Roby, Adam Ohr and Patrick Lee conjured images of headlights on night drives with the shimmering story of love and lust that was ‘Seventh Floor’ with dreamy synthscapes and hypnotic drum machine.

Available on the DAWN TO DAWN digital single ‘Seventh Floor’ via SSURROUNDSS



The palette of tools on ‘Truth Is The New Gold’ saw FERAL FIVE use traditional instruments, electronica and AI voicing in a quirky but accessible fashion. Exploring the theme of light pollution, the fine squelch laden ‘Silver Sky’ saw great vocals and backing reminiscent of INTERNATIONAL TEACHERS OF POP and DUBSTAR meeting GOLDFRAPP.

Available on the FERAL FIVE album ‘Truth Is The New Gold’ via Reckless Yes


FRAGRANCE. Much More Like A Wave – M!R!M Remix

Matthieu Roche is the enigmatic Parisian behind FRAGRANCE. whose debut ‘Dust & Disorders’ was expanded in 2023 with five new tracks. The first remix from it came in the shape of an excellent ‘Much More Like A Wave’ rework by Italian producer M!R!M. “I love his take on the song” said Roche, “I always felt that the chorus of this song could work as an anthem and he definitely achieved that with his remix”

Available on the FRAGRANCE. digital single ‘Much More Like A Wave – M!R!M Remix’ via Sugarcane Recordings


GLÜME Dangerous Blue

The second Glüme album ‘Main Character’ with high profile guests such as Sean Ono Lennon and Rufus Wainwright was set to elevate her to the next level but things did not quite work out that way with health and financial concerns by the end of the year. ‘Dangerous Blue’ was one of the sparkling highlights despite its cooing melancholy.

Available on the GLÜME album ‘Main Character’ via Italians Do It Better



Madeline Goldstein presented her best single yet in ‘Seed Of Doubt’ to launch her ‘Other World’ EP. With a wider narrative on “the restlessness of alienation and isolation, the longing to move, to feel power, and to flee”, ‘Seed Of Doubt’ was a brooding slice of gothwave in a manner tinged with some ghostly allure thanks to a haunting soprano delivery.

Available on the self-released MADELINE GOLDSTEIN EP ‘Other World’


JORI HULKKONEN featuring JOHN GRANT I’m Going To Hell

“For my 50th birthday I wanted to do something a bit special” said Jori Hulkkonen, “however, the list of realistic projects quickly narrowed down on yet another album. I did manage to invite some friends and heroes to be featured on it, though.” Displaying his love of PET SHOP BOYS, hearing John Grant with his rich baritone on a house-driven pop track like ‘I’m Going To Hell’ was pure joy.

Available on the JORI HULKKONEN album ‘There Is Light Hidden In These Shadows’ via Blanco & Tinto Recordings



ITALOCONNECTION’s long player ‘Nordisko’ came with a twist by paying tribute to pop from the Nordic region via a collection of cover versions. Written by Jay-Jay Johanson, his marvellous 2002 tune ‘On The Radio’ was given an airy feminine disco makeover featuring Jaia Sowden on vocals. With absorbent sequences and glistening keys, it was a fine shapeshift from the artpop original.

Available on the ITALOCONNECTION album ‘Nordisko’ via Mordisco / Blanco Y Negro



Jaakko Eino Kalevi sought to find beauty in the chaotic nature of the everyday on his new album ‘Chaos Magic’. One of its many highlights ‘The Chamber Of Love’ bore a resemblance to WHAM! “I wrote the song before I ever heard ‘Everything She Wants’ but the arrangement was different” the Finn said, “I love ‘Everything She Wants’ so I arranged this song sounding more like that. It is more electronic now…”

Available on the JAAKKO EINO KALEVI album ‘Chaos Magic’ via Weird World / Domino Recording Co



When artists are mutual fans, it can lead to collaborative possibilities and even ‘Lust’. KID MOXIE and NINA teamed up via Italians Do It Better to capture a seductive film-noir tension within a fantasy world. With a cool air of enigmatic mystery, the downtempo synthwave treatment exuded a sensual anticipation of consummation in their duet.

Available on the KID MOXIE & NINA EP ‘Lust’ via Italians Do It Better



KNIGHT$ What Planet Did You Come From?

The first new music from KNIGHT$ since 2021, the vibrant hook-laden Eurobeat of ‘What Planet Did You Come From? (Baby)’ threw in the kitchen sink with synth, sax and vocoder. With shades of Patrick Cowley’s work for Sylvester and Bobby Orlando’s Divine productions, it affirmed that James Knights’ Britalo was just the tonic in these difficult times.

Available on the KNIGHT$ EP ‘$auna Mu$ik’ via Specchio Uomo



‘I Will Never Learn’ summed up life’s trials and tribulations in a wonderful example of why NATION OF LANGUAGE appeal so much in their glorious mix of synths, live bass, sequencers and electronic percussion. A haunting girly falsetto howl provided a beautiful touch alongside their usual NEW ORDER, OMD and ULTRAVOX influences.

Available on the NATION OF LANGUAGE album ‘Strange Disciple’ via PIAS



Having impressed with her first NEU-ROMANCER EP ‘Neue Romantika’ earlier in 2023 while touring the world with ZANIAS, Berlin-based Australian Laura Bailey ended the year with the cowbell heavy Hi-NRG romp ‘Burning Eyes’. It made use of both her vocal and bass prowess which were less prominent on her largely instrumental debut release.

Available on the compilation album ‘Next Wave Acid Punx DEUX’ (V/A) via Eskimo Recordings


NNHMN Soldier of Beauty

As NNHMN, “non-humans” Lee Margot and Michal Laudarg have been encapsulating these unsettling times in music. Adapting their dark electronic body style with more varied dance elements on their appropriately titled ‘Circle of Doom’ album, courtesy of a particularly hypnotic bassline, the wonderful serene glory of ‘Soldier of Beauty’ gave the viewpoint that the only honest thing to fight for is peace.

Available on the NNHMN album ‘Circle of Doom’ via Young and Cold Records


OMD Look At You Now

Derived from a Paul Humphreys demo with the working title of ‘Zimmer Frame for Andy’, this came bursting with hooks and was perhaps only missing a Paul Humphreys lead vocal. Lyrics such as “When the energy is gone and the feeling is just wrong” and “The power in your hand is pouring out like sand” pointed towards the ‘Bauhaus Staircase’ album’s political themes on the stupidity of Brexit.

Available on the OMD album ‘Bauhaus Staircase’ via 100% Records


PAGE Det Här Är Mitt Sätt

Although the ‘En Ny Våg’ album title song took the PAGE “Numanisation” process to its zenith by featuring Chris Payne, outstripping it was the excellent jaunty robopop of ‘Det Här Är Mitt Sätt’. Within its four chord progression, there were catchy riffs and some fabulous vintage Moog soloing in what was originally conceived as a homage to ‘Fade To Grey’, song which Payne co-wrote.

Available on the PAGE album ‘En Ny Våg’ via Energy Rekords


THE REMAINDER Broken Manhole Cover

As well as Neil Arthur, THE REMAINDER also comprises Liam Hutton and Finlay Shakespeare, both members of the live BLANCMANGE family. The excellent dance friendly ‘Broken Manhole Cover’ recalled LCD SOUNDSYSTEM and it was all intentional as Neil Arthur told ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK “you’ll hear me singing via a gated tremolo FX the words ‘LCD SOUNDSYSTEM’ most of the way through the song.”

Available on THE REMAINDER album ‘Evensong’ via by Blanc Check Ltd




R. MISSING All Alone With Seas

Fronted by enigmatic Sharon Shy, having released enough singles this year to make up an album, R. MISSING are in danger of falling under the radar with the bubbly electronic pop noir of ‘All Alone With Seas’ almost passing by unnoticed despite being one of their best songs of late. A long playing release, while old fashioned, may provide the focal point the duo deserve.

Available on the R. MISSING single ‘All Alone With Seas’ via Terminal Echo



Covered by acts as diverse CARTER USM and Liza Minnelli, the latest interpretation of PET SHOP BOYS stark narrative of a kept woman came via this wispy account by Swedish duo SALLY SHAPIRO. Keeping the original theme of relationship dependency close to its heart but offering an icier Nordic vision from a female perspective, Neil Tennant said “We’ve heard it! The chorus in particular sounds good”.

Available on the SALLY SHAPIRO single ‘Rent’ via Italians Do It Better


DIE SEXUAL Bound, I Rise

DIE SEXUAL are the Los Angeles-based wife-and-husband duo of Rosselinni and Anton Floriano, the latter part of BLACK LIGHT ODYSSEY. Their dark electronic influences examine themes of domination and submission with the seductive ‘Bound, I Rise’ seeing the bottom switch to the top in a hypnotic EBM friendly stomper.

Available on DIE SEXUAL EP ‘Bound’ via A System Exclusive / Hush Ltd.



“It’s an absolute rip off of OMD’s ‘2nd Thought’!” admitted Finlay Shakespeare of his glorious ‘Illusion + Memory’ album highlight ‘Ready Ready’. Almost Motorik in presence with a wonderfully pulsing drive and gorgeous synth tones, our hero doesn’t refrain from thoughts about “feeling at home through just a voice on the shortwave, when in fact you don’t know where you are and you could be in the crosshairs at any time and place.”

Available on the FINLAY SHAKESPEARE album ‘Illusion + Memory’ via Alter


SIERRA Stronger

Parisian producer Annelise Morel has been quietly impressing audiences over the past few years as SIERRA with her brand of darkwave. After several EP releases, her debut album ‘A Story Of Anger’ was a major leap forward. Including collaborations with Carpenter Brut and HEALTH, the standout track was her autobiographical statement ‘Stronger’.

Available on the SIERRA album ‘A Story Of Anger’ via Universal Music


SOFT CELL The Day The World Turned Day-Glo

Always adept at doing covers, SOFT CELL presented a brilliant electro tribute to Poly Styrene with ‘The Day The World Turned Day-Glo’. Taking a musical leaf out of ‘Sex Dwarf’ with Dave Ball making his syndrums and synths sound so menacing yet accessible, while Marc Almond delivers a vocal recalling the anguish of ‘Martin’ with sleazy sax passages resonating with the dystopian lyrics.

Available on the SOFT CELL album ‘*Happiness now completed’ via BMG


SOFTWAVE Taking Life For Granted

Despite its positive pop sound, the lyrics on the second SOFTWAVE album highlighted the challenges of living in a modern world full of dualities. ‘Taking Life For Granted’ went all ABBA-esque with someone “lacking gratitude” under attack, although the rousing chorus and a particularly joyous instrumental break gave the infinite hope.

Available on the SOFTWAVE album ‘things we’ve done’ via Electro Shock Records



A fabulous cover of the Italo flavoured Kim Wilde B-side to ‘The Second Time’ from 1984, the throbbing ‘Lovers On A Beach’ is NINA sounding sexier than ever before. With sharp spikey edges boosting the trancey template, Ricky Wilde provides a superb extended end section that pays homage to Giorgio Moroder in the best way possible.

Available on the RICKY WILDE X NINA album ‘Scala Hearts’ via New Retro Wave



ZANIAS Lovelife

Following one of the most traumatic periods of her life, Alison Lewis returned as her solo alter-ego Zoe Zanias to present ‘Chrysalis’. With glorious arpeggios and lush synth strings, ‘Lovelife’ was bolstered with bass guitar by live bandmate Laura Bailey aka NEU-ROMANCER while an array of pitch-shifted voice samples acted as an abstract lead vocal before the actual one kicked in.

Available on the ZANIAS album ‘Chrysalis’ via Fleisch


A selection of ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s favourite music of 2023 featuring 230+ tracks has been compiled for its ‘Initial After Brilliance’ playlist

Text by Chi Ming Lai
7 December 2023

FRAGRANCE. Interview

With his stylish dark and dreamy synthpop as typified by the breakthrough single ‘So Typical’, Matthieu Roche is the enigmatic Parisian behind FRAGRANCE.

Although there have been two full length albums ‘Now That I’m Real’ in 2019 and ‘Salt Walter’ in 2021, it was 2017 which saw the first FRAGRANCE. release in the ‘Dust & Disorders’ EP. Forward to 2023 and ‘Dust & Disorders’ has been reissued and expanded. Featuring an extra five new tracks, although his past work has been primarily in English, two songs ‘Hanté De Moi’ and ‘Mise En Garde’ see Matthieu Roche singing in his native language for the first time.

Having issued the ‘Salt Water Remixed’ cassette earlier in 2023, the first of the ‘Dust & Disorders (Complete Edition)’ reworks has just emerged in the shape of an excellent ‘Much More Like A Wave’ rework by London-based Italian producer M!R!M

FRAGRANCE. live appearances and interviews are quite rare, but Matthieu Roche happily chatted to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK about his creative career to date.

In the wider scheme of electronic pop music, FRAGRANCE. is unusual in that it is dark yet dreamy and occasionally frantic rhythmically yet soft vocally. How did this template emerge?

Hi Chi! I haven’t started this project with a preconceived idea of a style I should work on, I was instinctively headed in that direction. I think it’s simply the result of different layers of inspirations and influences. I always thought that dancing rhythms can emphasise the melancholic vibes, I have the feeling it offers the best frame for my music and what I want to pass through it.

What prompted you to sing in English rather than French?

At the very beginning, singing in English was an easier constraint because it’s not my native language and I felt freer with my choice of words and sentences. But I always loved to incorporate some French here and there and I’m more and more writing in French these days. It took some time but there are two songs entirely in French on my latest record and I’m very proud of them. I hope I’ll be able to write some more!

Do you have a preference in the instruments or software that you use? Do you like hardware synths or does this not matter to you?

On my side, the easier the better, I’m not very patient when I’m composing a song, so I’m using software. But I’m working with S Diamah on the production now (she worked on my latest LP, ‘Salt Water’) and I’m taking benefit of her amazing hardware synths knowledge and curiosity and she embellishes my compositions with them.

On your debut album ‘Now That I’m Real’, as well as your own voice, you had Hélène de Thoury aka HANTE. from MINUIT MACHINE featuring on ‘Hazy Strobes’ and Maya Postepski from AUSTRA, TR/ST and PRINCESS CENTURY on ‘At Last’, how did these collaborations come about?

I love working on “featurings”. Hélène, first of all, I loved her music as HANTE. and I met her when she mastered my previous EP. She was like a mentor to me at that time, so it was quite natural to invite her on my first album. Maya is one of my favorite producer and someone sent her my first EP in 2017 and that’s how we got in touch: that was quite unexpected! We started to work on songs together every time she was passing through Paris. She wasn’t used to singing at that time and she has a lovely accent when she speaks French and I think that’s what drove me to ask her if she’d be interested to sing – in French – on one of my songs.

You later did a brilliant duet with Maya for a PRINCESS CENTURY song called ‘Stupid Things’ from her album ‘Surrender’ which had this underlying sweetness to it, was this a reaction to the intensity of the pandemic lockdown? Do you have any fun memories from the making of it?

I’m glad you mention this album from her, because I absolutely love it. I already known some tracks from it from when she was working on it, and one day, I received an email with the demo of ‘Stupid Things’, asking if I wanna try something on it. This one, we worked on it remotely, but we love to write romantic / melancholic songs together (we have a few of them that never got released) so it was a super easy collaboration. Writing music with Maya is always fun.

You recorded a cover of GALA ‘Freed From Desire’ in 2019, it’s interesting how this song has now become a women’s football album?

Yes, the song has become an anthem for several sports competitions, whether it football or rugby. When I recorded a cover of it, it was just to please the kid in me that grew up with her songs, such as ‘Let A Boy Cry’. Unfortunately, and that’s probably due to the new success of the original song, they are quite tough with the rights of the song and my cover is no longer available on streaming platforms.

Your second album ‘Salt Water’ provided FRAGRANCE. with a wider international breakthrough with a slightly harder but still accessible sound like on ‘Crisis’, how do you look back on the making of that record?

I co-produced this album with Sophia Hamadi, aka S Diamah, as I mentioned earlier. I wrote the whole album around the theme of salt waters: tears, sweat and the sea. That implies a cool range of moods, haha. I don’t really see this record as harder than the previous one, but I think the combination of dreamy / melancholic and dancing / dark moods goes deeper on it!

Starting off ambient before it locks into a disco tempo, ‘The Cure’ has this wonderfully cinematic feel. Does soundtrack work appeal to you and do you have any favourite film composers?

It’s funny you say that, because Lulannie, who sings with me on this song, is a photographer / director. She also directed the music video that we had to shoot remotely, her in New York, me in Paris and in Brittany. Cinema is definitely a source of inspiration for me, even though I don’t listen to a lot of movie soundtracks by itself. More than a source of inspiration, it’s really a source of creativity that encourages me to explore some things with my own medium, with my own vision. This summer, I re-watched the entire ‘Twin Peaks’ series + movies and that reminds me one more time how Angelo Badalamenti is one of the greatest genius of music composing.

Your debut 2017 EP ‘Dust & Disorders’ has been expanded, but with five new songs to start. Why did you go for this approach rather than release a new standalone EP or even a new album?

When I worked on my first songs, I started with nothing but my computer and, after some friends convinced me to, I released it on Bandcamp. This EP has a special place in my heart, because it gave me the opportunity to introduce my music and to meet new amazing people. I had very few listeners at that time, but I was already dreaming of being able to give it a vinyl release one day. I also really wanted to see the artwork on a real printed object. In the meantime, with my two albums, I also had collected a lot of drafts of unfinished songs. I used them to write those 5 new songs and I think combining the two projects was quite cohesive!

What is the story behind the song ‘Hanté De Moi’ and its video?

My lyrics are always quite blurred and opened for interpretations. If, as a listener, you want to hear a word rather than another so it can resonate with you, I’m totally fine with that. When I asked Jennifer Medina to shoot a music video for it, I only gave her the lyrics, so she could build her own vision of it. I loved the abstract result of this girl watching herself in dreams.

M!R!M has done a remix of ‘Much More Like a Wave’, are you happy with the results? How do you go about choosing remixers for the songs and how involved do you get, are you quite hands off?

I love his take on the song. I always felt that the chorus of this song could work as an anthem and he definitely achieved that with his remix. I only work with artists I love regardless of their music style, so I’m not getting involved at all in their process, unless they ask to, but I don’t know if that ever happened.

You remixed ‘A Tout Jamais’ for Mylène Farmer in 2022, when the ball is on the other foot and you are remixing another artist, what approach to do take?

The main thing I like when I’m remixing a song is to work with vocals that are not mine! It changes the way to work the sounds and I love that. I have to admit that I have a preference for female vocalists, it takes me to somewhere that I’m not used to. Mylène Farmer is the best example for that, she’s one of the (if not the) most iconic French singer, so it was quite challenging but also a huge pride.

Are there any upcoming live shows in the calendar, how do you find the challenges of performing as a solo electronic act, is it something you enjoy?

I don’t play a lot of shows, it asks for quite a lot of involvement and energy, so for the moment, I only accept cool one-shot opportunities. But despite the stress it can cause, it’s always great memories. I had the chance to open for TR/ST, LINEA ASPERA and Molly Nilsson and those memories will be forever dear to my heart. But I will definitely search for more occasions to play in the future, maybe for my next album.

What are your future FRAGRANCE. plans with regards recording and remixing?

My main plan right now is to work on my new album, my third LP. I have a more and more clear vision of what I want to do with it, but I have to get to work now! I’m taking a little break in making remixes so I can focus on the new songs, but I’ve got one unreleased one that will be released at the beginning of 2024 I think!

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to Matthieu Roche

Special thanks to Marcus Sugars at Sugarcane Recordings

‘Much More Like A Wave’ (M!R!M Remix) is released by Sugarcane Recordings, available via online outlets including https://fragrancemusic.bandcamp.com/track/much-more-like-a-wave-m-r-m-remix

‘Dust & Disorders (Complete Edition)’ is released by Synth Religion, available as a Limited Edition 12″ half transparent / half cream vinyl LP, CD and download from https://fragrancemusic.bandcamp.com/





Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Jennifer Medina
17 October 2023


Matthieu Roche is the enigmatic Parisian behind FRAGRANCE.

A purveyor of dreamy synthpop in the vein of PET SHOP BOYS, he released his debut EP as FRAGRANCE. in 2017 before presenting his first full length release ‘Now That I’m Real’ in 2019 on Synth Religion. From it, ‘So Typical’ was a particular highlight while there were also collaborations with Maya Postepski of AUSTRA, TR/ST and PRINCESS CENTURY fame plus Hélène de Thoury, best known for her solo project HANTE. and as a member of MINUIT MACHINE. Singing primarily in English and often leaving vocals en Français to his female collaborations, Roche exudes a classic elegance, musically recalling TR/ST but using a far less polarising singing style than that of Robert Alfons.

As a result, those who might be put off vocally by TR/ST might find FRAGRANCE. much more accessible. A modest man, Roche lets his music do the talking and with his second FRAGRANCE. album ‘Salt Water’, he continues his production partnership with Sophia Hamadi from the French duo OPALE, while a new artistic relationship comes in the shape of New York-based Venezuelan singer and photographer Lulannie.

Developing on the mood and dance template of its predecessor, ‘Salt Water’ opens with the boisterous ‘Forevermore’ where body mechanics sit within the trancey backdrop. The squelchy French house of ‘Attiré Par Le Chaos’ is suitably vibrant and hypnotic while dreamy yet danceable, the wonderful electro-disco of ‘Covered In Gold’ comes over like a Gallic PET SHOP BOYS, smoothed by Merlot and additional ethereal voices from Sophia Hamadi.

While ‘Twisted Way’ doesn’t quite hit the heights of what came before, it is enjoyable in a drifting atmospheric kind of way, but returning to something rhythmically harder, the arpeggio-laden ‘Tears’ offers a tone of resignation yet sparkles.

The energetic ‘Bind Me Up With Your Flesh’ throws in some sinister shade to the spacey club friendly vibes but with a beautiful piano intro, ‘The Cure’ eases itself in before reverberant synthbass and metronomic beats kick in to do what FRAGRANCE. do best with the alluring middle eight prose from Lulannie only adding to the pleasure.

‘Love Bites’ bubbles as Roche sings of something “dead in the water” as it rings with a number of understated electronic hooks, while the propulsive ‘Crisis’ brings a dark anxiety into proceedings although things are never too intense or doom laden, always giving hope to a possible solution. ‘A Million Replays’ ends ‘Salt Water’ with a contemplative night drive soundtrack building into a percussive coda and then ocean waves in a reflection of the album title.

Exquisite and melodic, ‘Salt Water’ utilises prominent rhythms that are never overbearing. Swathed in an absorbing melancholy for a superbly produced collection of appealing music, its ten tracks sit as comfortably at home as they do on the dancefloor, not an easy feat to pull off. Mais oui!

‘Salt Water’ is released by Synth Religion, available as a CD, baby pink or black marble transparent vinyl LP and download from https://fragrancemusic.bandcamp.com/album/salt-water




Text by Chi Ming Lai
Portrait Photo by Jennifer Medina, Artwork Photography by Anne-Fleur Sire
18th November 2021

FRAGRANCE. Now That I’m Real

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 https://fragrancemusic.bandcamp.com/




Text by Monika Izabela Trigwell
28th February 2019