FRAGRANCE. – Salt Water

Dreaming white and blue…

Back in 2019, we were intrigued by the combination of ethereal and moody elements present on Now That I’m Real (see TEC review previously), via Fragrance. (aka Matthieu Roche). That interest was also piqued by Fragrance.’s choice of guest artists, which included the talents of Hélène de Thoury (Hante., Minuit Machine) and Maya Postepski.

That initial Fragrance. album boasted the subtle broodiness of ‘So Typical’ and the arctic synthscapes of ‘Endless Cold’. Summing up, our review suggested that “Fragrance. is a force to be reckoned with within the French electronic scene”.

More recently, Fragrance. has also branched out into remix work, which recently included the excellent efforts on Violent Vickie’s ‘Get to Me’ .

Meanwhile, Salt Water represents Roche’s latest album release and treads familiar territory to Now That I’m Real. There’s an airy feel to most of the compositions present here – a refreshing change, perhaps, from much of the darker and heavier outings in the broader world of electronic music. As ever, Fragrance. features guest vocalists on select tracks and the album emerges as a stylish, gauzy wonderland of electronica.

Co-produced with Sophia Hamadi (half of duo Opale), the press release for the album suggests that Salt Water “…goes deeper than ever into melancholic and dark sounds, while always keeping a distant light towards which the soft voice and fragile words of Matthieu Roche guide us.”

‘Forevermore’ is a pacy effort that combines an insistent beat along with Roche’s whispery narrative. The repeating mantra of “Mesmerized/Forevermore” is an effective element that certainly has an hypnotic draw to it. Similarly, ‘Attiré Par le Chaos’ merges its electronic percussion with a sense of charm.

There’s something particularly heartfelt about ‘Covered In Gold’ (a composition that also boasts Sophia Hamadi on backing vocals duty), an undefinable sadness captured in evocative lines such as “Silver rain, I drown/I’ve lost so much of you”.

On ‘Twisted Way’, there’s a much more laidback approach. The composition’s plaintive melody and Roche’s reflective voice lend the album a suitable pause. Elsewhere, there’s a nostalgic lilt to ‘The Cure’, featuring sublime guest vocals via Jennifer Medina (Lulannie), via its washed-out piano tones. The rest of the track has a hymnal quality lurking in its depths that make this one of the album’s highlights.

There’s a darker vibe present on ‘Crisis’, whose lyrical journey perhaps indicates a mission statement of sorts for Fragrance. (“You will dance your pain away/You will dance it anyway”).

Salt Water also serves up such delights as the percussive ‘Bind Me Up With Your Flesh’ and the melancholic draw of ‘Love Bites’; the latter track’s repeating line of “Dead in the water” taking on an unsettling quality.

Closing things out, the shimmering beauty of ‘A Million Replays’ captures heartache in a composition that seems to radiate with themes of loss and despair.

As an album, Salt Water continues to demonstrate Fragrance.’s talent for smart, considered electronic music. It’s also got a slick touch on production, care of Matthieu Roche himself and Sophia Hamadi’s sonic talents.

Salt Water is out now: