Gravity & Grace
Back in 2017, we explored the dusty synth worlds of Paris-based musician Matthieu Roche. Through the Dust & Disorders EP, we unveiled a dark and brooding electronic soundscape, that nonetheless had a curious fragility to it.
Since then, Roche has been honing his sound which has now resulted in debut album Now That I’m Real. Along for the ride are Maya Postepski (TR/ST, Austra, Princess Century) and Hélène de Thoury (Hante., Minuit Machine) to produce a more polished collection of songs.
Roche considers Dust & Disorders to be a more claustrophobic, inward-looking affair with the new album taking steps into the outside world. “Semi-dreamed stories, relationship spirals and a thirst for liberation and relief” are offered up as themes for Now That I’m Real.
There’s certainly more of a smoother finish for the compositions on this album, although that element of ethereal melancholia is front and centre. Overall, Fragrance. (The full stop on the name is an affectation – also utilised by Hante.) seems to occupy a middle ground between the gothic synth stylings of TR/ST and the more Nordic moodiness of Sailor & I.
Lurking in the depths of this album are some stunning pieces of work, including the subtle broodiness of ‘So Typical’ and the arctic synthscapes of ‘Endless Cold’. It shows the evolution of Roche’s sound from Dust & Disorders onto a much bigger canvas.
‘Gone In A Wink’ gives the album a propulsive opening track, its percussive rhythms offset against Roche’s whispery vocal delivery.
But if there’s a track that jumps out of the entire album, it has to be the icy excellence of ‘So Typical’. There’s an oddly empty quality to the delivery of the lyrics (“But you were mine/And I was gone”) while the subtle rhythms keep the whole thing chugging along.
‘Endless Cold’ certainly wears the influence of Maya Postepski on its sleeve, harkening back to her earlier TR/ST work with its slightly sinister synths. Elsewhere, on the more reflective ‘At Last’, Postepski also offers up some co-vocals on a lounge pop piece that plays with themes of memory and the past.
‘Gravity & Grace’, meanwhile, delves into the contrast between more dynamic synth hooks and a slower ambience. ‘Hazy Strobes’ is a slower affair, with warmer textures – and also features some co-vocals from Hélène de Thoury (in her Hante. guise).
Elsewhere, ‘Crawling To The Void’ takes things up a gear with some sharp synth work. There’s a distinct synthwave quality to both ‘Leaving The City’ and ‘Heatwave’, with a more summery vibe and Roche’s echo-washed vocals scattered over the top.
‘The Missing Part’, which closes the album, offers up the album’s longest composition. It weaves in layers of synths with tight percussive fills and Roche’s twilight musings (“You have gone too far/In a way, now I can’t see”).
Now That I’m Real shows that Fragrance. is a force to be reckoned with within the French electronic scene. It’s an album that seems like the next logical step for Matthieu Roche – and also points to a healthy future for subsequent releases.
Fragrance. are headlining the London Artefaktor AL4 event on 25th April 2020.