If you’ve been following the career of Femme En Fourrure thus far you’d have come in contact with a group that display eclectic nuances in their music without losing the rarefied value that’s at the heart of their sound. Even after the role of lead vocalist changed to Sandra Tervonen in 2014, Femme en Foururre still managed to captivate their audiences with a sound that proffered in dark corners and thrived in sultry environments. Their debut album 36-26-36 was an evocative minimalist work with seductive vocals, floating above the bass-driven arrangements that often focussed on the dance floor. Their sophomore effort, The Beach offered some contrasts with the title track and the Apple of my Eye developing fuller arrangements, from a slightly abstracted view on the dance floor. The two consecutive releases show Juuso as a producer with the ability to draw on a diverse set of ideas – ideas often influenced by trend – and pull them together as a distinct FEF track.
Their latest EP, Smell is no different, moving on from the Beach, offering another evolution in their sound, without losing sight of the crux of their appeal. Gone, are the tech-house dance arrangement of their debut and the tense neuroticism of the Beach. They’ve honed the ideas from that last EP, incorporating touches reminiscent of their debut. Smell appears to have picked up something they might have lost along the way through the Beach, but avoids the banal repetition of trying to re-create something from their past.
The focus on Smell falls on trap-like percussive arrangements and defined verse-chorus song structures. On the first cut and title track, murky layers of pads and sytnhs stack up to swath Sandra’s hypnotic vocal in something that’s reminiscent of oOoOO, with pleasant melodic phrases interjected by those sensually brooding vocals. The key to Femme En Fourrure’s appeal lies with those vocals and the way they languish in the seductive tones of the music, regardless of the form it takes. It’s something the Finnish group has also fully realised in the visual accompaniment to this EP with that striking cover and something they might have missed out on the Beach. The innuendo that was very much a central theme on their debut is present again on Smell and carried through on songs like Blossom with the voyeuristic lyric; ‘I have sensed your eyes on me’. Smell is filled with these memorable lines, and impressive musical phrases that linger in your conscious, are never too far away either. The catchy ascending-descending synth hook that follows in Blossom is something that sticks in your mind for some time after. It’s an aspect of Femme en Foururre that has been significantly developed on Smell. All these elements however wouldn’t necessarily work if you combine them. It’s the way Femme en Fourrure present them in their unique budding style that marks the appeal. Their approach, more than a distinct sound, ties it all together and even though they’ve gone from bass-driven tech-house arrangements of 36-26-36 to the melancholic oppressive sonics of the Beach, they’ve maintained that unique quality in their music on Smell.